A humble man is not he who is self-deprecating and who uses humble words, but he who joyfully accepts advice. If you wish to be saved, you should love sincere speech and never recklessly despise reproof. He who does not gratefully accept reproofs shows that he wilfully lingers in his passions: he who loves reproofs is acting rationally.
A brother once visited Abba Serapion. The Elder invited him to offer a prayer, according to custom; but he did not obey, calling himself a sinner and unworthy of the monastic schema. The Elder also wanted to wash his feet, but the brother did not consent to it, using the same words (that is, “I am a sinner and unworthy of the monastic schema”).
The Elder then set the table and proposed that they sit down to eat. He sat down with the Elder and began to eat with him. During the meal, the Elder admonished him and said: “My son, if you want to be edified, stay patiently in your cell and pay attention to yourself and to your handiwork; for going out and visiting others does not profit you as much as staying in your cell.”
When the brother heard the Elder saying these things, he was displeased, and the expression on his face altered so much that the Elder could not fail to notice it. Therefore, Abba Serapion said to him:
“Up to now you have been saying ‘I am a sinner,’ censuring yourself, and judging yourself unworthy even to live; and yet, when I counselled you lovingly you became as angry as a wild beast. If you want to be humble then, learn to accept courageously whatever others say to you, and do not just speak fine words that have no content.”
On hearing this, the brother made a prostration to the Elder and went away, greatly edified.
If, to be humble, you hypocritically debase yourself, God will expose you; if, however, you truly lower yourself, God will appoint all of His creation to praise you.