I was reminded today why it is so important that we remember who we are and what we have been made for. I find that it’s really easy to love someone you don’t know. I find it’s also really easy to have empathy or sympathy (depending on the situation) for someone you don’t know. I find it extremely easy to give someone I don’t know the benefit of the doubt – sometimes to the extreme. Why are all of these things so difficult with someone that I know?!? It seems that, if I know your background, your story, it would be EASIER to understand, empathize, sympathize, give benefit to, and love. It’s not. It’s so much harder…at least I find it to be. I find it easy to avoid passing judgement on the words or actions of someone I don’t know and even easier to cast blame and judgement upon those I do know. So, what is a girl to do?
The answer is easy and hard all at the same time. I am called to love everyone at all times, like Christ loves. No conditions, no qualifications, no expectations. I love them for who they are, where they are. (Aside…loving someone does not mean tolerating or condoning choices/actions that we know to be wrong/bad/sinful. Loving them means that; in an appropriate time, place, and manner; I should correct them with great charity.) Loving someone like Christ loves us takes great humility. I struggle with that. Christian humility flys in the face of everything we are told to believe in our society. We are told that we must look out for number one but humility says we should have no worries for ourselves. We should not desire to be loved, wanted, praised, or looked upon with high esteem. We should not be afraid of being forgotten, left behind, wrongfully accused, or despised. When we are humble, we know our place. When we are humble, we REMEMBER exactly who we are, who created us, and who is really in charge. When we are humble, we don’t worry about today or tomorrow and we don’t stress over yesterday, because we remember what is important.
God, please create in me a spirit of authentic humility & help me love everyone, strangers and non-strangers, like Christ loves me. Amen.
Okay, so this has nothing to do with The Simpsons, other than I’m watching a rerun as I write this post. I got you to read the first line or so, though, didn’t I? 😉 I’ve been thinking about humility a lot lately. I mean A LOT. The Litany of Humility is one of my favorite prayers. It is also one of the most difficult to pray with total sincerity. To pray for God to release you from the desire of being loved, from the fear of being forgotten, from the desire of being praised, from the fear of being falsely accused or calumniation (calumniate – To make maliciously or knowingly false statements about. – www.thefreedictionary.com). When you really stop to think about what you are asking for…what you are praying for – it’s scary. Most people have heard that you should be careful when you pray for patience because God will give you ways to practice patience Well, when you pray for humility – God will give you ways to practice it.
I was speaking with some friends earlier today about St. Ignatius of Antioch, among other things (including The Simpsons). He (St. Ignatius) was on his way to Rome, before Rome was Christian, and was fairly certain he would be martyred while there. He wrote letters to his friends and fellow Christians begging them to stand back and let him be martyred. Today, the Church would frown upon us seeking out martyrdom, like St. Ignatius did. As we were talking about this, one of my friends joked. “You mean I shouldn’t ask God to make me a martyr? How about to let it be quick and painless?” Praying for a painless, free, and quick trip to Heaven. If only it was so easy. In some ways it is. Remember, Jesus tells the rich man that all he needs to do is give away everything he owns and follow Him (Jesus). That’s not so hard, right? Right. Or not.
Just like we know the road to Heaven is not an easy one, practicing humility is a lot more difficult than you or I might think. Often, practicing humility requires humiliation. It requires a death of our pride. Our sweet, sweet pride. Sometimes I think nothing hurts more than dying pride. I pray to be free from the fear of being forgotten, so I am forgotten by those who (I think) I would never forget – and it hurts. I feel angry and confused. “Why am I so easy to forget, why am I not wanted, why don’t they like me?” These questions plague my heart and mind. “Oh, why God?” Then I remember, oh yeah, I prayed for this. Ugh. Thanks for that answered prayer, Lord. (I’m not nearly as sincere in my thanks as I should be.) I can’t develop humility on my own, by myself, because then I’m making it all about me and what I can do. That’s not very humble, is it? If I become too aware of my own humility then I run the risk of becoming proud about just how humble I am – not so humble. It’s a vicious cycle that Satan loves to use against us. All of this has been on my mind because I was recently given the gift of practicing humility. My first reaction was absolute anger. I was livid. Then, I stopped and thought about what I was feeling. I imagined carrying out many different scenarios that would assuage my wounded pride and put the other person in their place. How would that feel? Would I have satisfaction, peace, joy, or relief? No. I might feel a little superior but most likely it would only leave me one step closer to an ulcer and my heart would still be sad. I had to stop and calm my behind down. I had to stop and think about how many other people this would effect. I had to lay my pride down and walk away. It wasn’t easy – it still isn’t. I’ve been struggling with this since it happened. Part of me really wants to run back and defend myself. Part of me really wants to let my fury rain down upon them. Part of me wants to pick up my wounded pride and give it some life support. I am broken, fallen, and disordered. I want to take care of this in a broken, fallen, and disordered way. Who does that help? Satan. It helps him. He is the only one to benefit from me falling to my pride and disordered desires. It brings at least one soul (mine…possibly more) that much closer to him and that much further from God. I don’t like Satan and I have no plans of intentionally helping him out. I’m sure I already unintentionally help him out plenty.
I am prideful, fallen, and disordered. I am a sinner. A big, goober, stinky sinner. I have plenty of logs to take care of before I point out any of my brothers’ (or sisters’) splinters. Heavy logs. I desperately long to be free of them. The thought occurs to me that to be poor in something lends itself to being free. When I have no money, it’s so much easier for me to give everything I do have to someone else. When I have nothing, it is easy to share. The more I have – the more we put away in our savings account or the more material possessions we amass, the more I fear loosing it. The more difficult it is to share. I have to constantly remind myself that anything I have has been given to me by God and it is not mine to horde. I should share it and I shouldn’t be afraid. God will always take care of us, somehow. If I could be poor in pride – how free would I be?!? I would be free from feeling inadequate, defensive, vengeful, and angry. I would be free to be thankful for every little thing I was given. I would be free to love. I would be free to follow Christ and accept whatever crosses He gave me. So, I am going to pray for humility. I am going to pray for it as sincerely as I possibly can and pray that God will help remove any resentment and resistance from my heart. I am going to lay my pride and everything else down at the foot of the cross and try not to run back for any of it. It is only with God’s help that I will be able to let go of it all and truly leave it. I long for true freedom and truth in Christ and I can’t do any of this without Him.
“Be gentle to all and stern with yourself.” – St. Teresa of Avila
“Humility, however deep it be, neither disquiets nor troubles nor disturbs the soul; it is accompanied by peace, joy and tranquility. Although, on realizing how wicked we are, we can see clearly that we deserve to be in hell, and are distressed by our sinfulness, and rightly think that everyone should hate us, yet, if our humility is true, this distress is accompanied by an interior peace and joy of which we should not like to be deprived. Far from disturbing or depressing the soul, it enlarges it and makes it fit to serve God better. The other kind of distress only disturbs and upsets the mind and troubles the soul, so grievous is it. I think the devil is anxious for us to believe that we are humble, and, if he can, to lead us to distrust God.” – St. Teresa of Avila
“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”- St. Augustine
“As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility.” – St. Bernard of Clairvaux
“The highest point of humility consists in not merely acknowledging one’s abjection, but in taking pleasure therein, not from any want of breadth or courage, but to give the more glory to God’s Divine Majesty, and to esteem one’s neighbour more highly than one’s self.” – St. Francis De Sales
“Humility makes our lives acceptable to God, meekness makes us acceptable to men.” – St. Francis De Sales
“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” – St. Augustine
“The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.” – St. Vincent de Paul
“We shall never learn to know ourselves except by endeavoring to know God; for, beholding His greatness, we realize our own littleness; His purity shows us our foulness; and by meditating upon His humility we find how very far we are from being humble.” – St. Teresa of Avila