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Great and Little
Developing virtue is a balancing act. It's finding the golden mean between two extremes.
And in many ways, one virtue may help us to balance another. For example, magnanimity and humility are seemingly two opposing virtues.
A magnanimous person strives to do great things and is deserving of honor. All of us have this innate desire to do great things — think of kids' wild day dreams about saving the day and being a superhero. Now, whether we actually do great acts is a different story, but the desire is there. That’s magnanimity.
Saint Thomas Aquinas gives us this definition of humility: "(It) consists in keeping oneself within one's own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one's superior."
So, on the one hand, we have this desire for greatness, and on the other, we're told to not stretch beyond our own bounds. They seem to be opposites, right? Well, when we dig a little deeper, we see that both are expected of us. It’s through humility that we reach magnanimity.
Humility helps us to acknowledge that we have very real weaknesses, causing us to depend on the Lord. Greatness is not something we attain on our own. We're human, flawed and sinful, so we turn to the One above us. It is by our faith in Jesus Christ that the door to greatness is opened. It’s not by our own power, but His. And, this is our path to the fulfillment of magnanimity.
It's being humble — knowing who we are and who God is — that enables us to seek greatness in His name, for His glory.