For some of us, the beginning of a New Year is a time to make our annual resolutions. If you are looking for some ideas, might I suggest you take a look at the virtue of humility? I know, I know, some of you might be thinking, “How negative!” Or, “How depressing!” But please hear me out.
I admit, the virtue of humility gets a bad press in some religious circles. Some traditions would have you believe that humility means wearing a sign across your chest that says, “I am a door mat. Please walk all over me.” Just look at some of the synonyms suggested for humility in my Thesaurus: : shyness… unassertiveness… abasement… low view of one’s importance… submissiveness… sheepishness… timorousness. But that’s not what I think of when I speak of humility.
For me, humility is truth. It is accepting the truth about ourselves. And what is that truth? We are both saint and sinner. This means we are capable of doing great and good and beautiful things. It also means we are capable of doing bad and mean and ugly things. When we have humility, we accept the truth of our potential for goodness as well as our propensity for evil. Humility is also accepting the truth about ourselves in relationship to God and to others. As Christians, we believe we are all sons and daughters of God. There’s nothing abasing about that reality! On the contrary, being a child of God bestows upon us a value and worth beyond all imagining! We Christians also believe that all other human beings are our brothers and sisters and worthy of our respect. Imagine a world in which all humans lived out of that truth!
Spiritual writers and psychologists tell us that there are certain benefits of being humble. Being humble helps us to trust in God more. We believe that God’s ways are so far beyond our understanding, we cannot possibly comprehend them all the time. This truth moves us to trust in this Beloved Deity who loves us more than we will ever realize. Another benefit of humility is this: because we are aware of our own limitations and failings, we are more likely to develop compassion and empathy toward others. Humility also fosters a good sense of humor. Awareness of our shortcomings doesn’t discombobulate us. On the contrary, this awareness can actually promote self-growth. We know we can always work toward being a better human being, that is, a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend, a better employee, a better Christian.
I imagine most of you who are reading this already possess a fair amount of humility. You are probably in touch with your limitations (ouch!) and I hope with your goodness, that is, with all the ways you are sincerely striving to live Jesus’ mandate, “Love one another!” You are also interested in self-growth. How do I know that? Because you’re reading a blog that focuses on everyday spirituality! Another indication of humility is gratitude. I have a hunch, gratitude is one of your strong suits too. Your life experiences have probably taught you (as mine have taught me) that most of life is gift. Pure gift!
And finally, the word “humility” comes from the Latin word humus, which means ground. The humble person is grounded in the real world, in earthly life, in everyday life. But the humble person is also grounded in transcendent reality, that is, the reality that is far greater than our earthly existence–meaning ultimately THE Transcendent One, God. The other day, I came across this quotation by the 20th Century French writer and mystic, Simone Weil: “Only the light that falls continually from the sky gives the tree the energy to push powerful roots into the earth. The tree is really rooted in the sky.” It is the presence and power of the Transcendent in our lives that enables us to live with our own fragility amid the complexities of human existence–and to do so with great joy, undying hope, and lots and lots of humility.
Did anything catch your attention in this reflection on humility?
How would you define or describe humility?
Is there anyone you know who is humble–in the best sense of that word?
Think of a few instances when you were aware of the Transcendent in your life?
Happy New Year to All!
Here’s a song I think is appropriate for the beginning of a new year. It’s called “Open My Eyes, Lord” by Jesse Manibusan. In this song/prayer we ask of Jesus: to see your face… to hear your voice… to love like you. This is a fine little prayer for every day of 2024…
I invite you to write a comment below… Thank you!