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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Humility: A Virtue for the New Year

(photo by RDNE – Pexels)

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.

(Photo by Magda Ehlers – Pexels)

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!

Humility says, “I am a beloved child of God.” (Photo by Max Rahubovsky – Pexels)

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.

(Photo by Tim Mossholder – Pexels)

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.


For reflection:

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!

70 Responses

  1. I always look forward to seeing your blogs. Thank you for this one on humility. I need more of it when it comes to trusting in God. Please say a prayer for someone I know whose business is at risk of failing. Thank you.

    1. Joe, Thank you for your upbeat response. I will certainly pray for that “someone” whose business is at risk. I’m sure many of my readers will also offer a prayer for him. Thanks again for writing! Melannie

  2. I had already been considering this as my word of the year. It was tied with the words marvel and try. Your blog reassures me that focusing on humility will be a good 2024 path for me. Thank you. I don’t believe there are any coincidences.

    1. Vivian, I like all three of your words for the year: humility… marvel… and try. Thank you for sharing them! Melannie

  3. The words of “open my eyes, Lord” are so true. How often we live our daily lives in goodness, but stop only at the “goodness of our humanity” without experiencing the goodness of God within us. We are all called to live the mystery of the Incarnation within us each and every day. That is where humility begins.

    Blessings and Happy New Year,
    Father John

    1. Father John, Thank you for your insightful response. I especially liked your emphasis on “the goodness of God WITHIN US! Thank you for that reminder! Melannie

  4. Wonderful to start the year with you. The line that I truly believe is because you know your limitations you can be more compassionate and understanding of others. Another winner! And I truly love the musical reflections that accompany each blob. Blessings in 2024.

    1. Carolyn, I too appreciate the idea that the more we are in touch with our own limitations, the more compassionate we CAN be (it’s not automatically so!) with others. I’m glad you enjoy the music videos. There are so many excellent songs out there to choose from! Melannie

  5. Happy New Year Sister Melanie! Prayers for a blessed year. “Humility is truth”. The very first time I heard that was as a sophomore at Beaumont in 1947. And I never forgot it. Thanks for your reenforcement.

    1. Antoinette, You had some good teachers at Beaumont for sure! Back then, they were probably mostly Ursulines, a wonderful community of Sisters. Thanks for writing. It’s always good hearing from a “local reader”! Melannie PS: Are you related to the family that owned the famous pizza place?

  6. Perfect reading!! Great reflection on starting off 2024 on the right track! I always love a quote I read years ago, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”
    Happy New Year to you and your followers!! God is so so God!! ♥️🎉😊🙏

    1. Eileen, Thank you for adding to my blog with your wonderful quote! And I hope we can all say throughout 2024 that God is indeed good–even when times may be rough. Melannie

    1. Ann, Thank you for letting me know you liked the song. Obviously I too thought it was a good song to start the new year! Melannie

  7. “the tree is rooted in the sky”

    I look forward to walking thru 2024 with you and your many followers. Thank you for starting it off with this meaningful reflection. PEACE

    1. Linda, You picked out a line that I too really, really liked from Simone Weil. It gave me a new way to look at the life and growth of a tree–and my own life and growth! Peace to you too! Melannie

  8. So beautiful, Sister Melanie —. Thank you. I had decided that my Scripture Verse for this new year would be those simple words from Micah from today’s Reading in Morning Prayer – “He shall be Peace”.

    THAT, coupled with Humility, will – I pray- keep my foot from the stirrup of the “High Horse” I tend to climb on to gallop my indignation away!

    Again, thank you for this Grace-filled start to 2024,
    PEACE

    1. Mary, Thank you for sharing your scripture verse with us! What a neat thing to have throughout your new year. Yes, we all must not slip our foot into “the stirrup of the ‘high horse.'” Thanks for writing! Melannie

  9. Happy New Year, Melannie!
    Happy New Year, all…

    Yes, humility is a ladder we must all ascend — as Saint Benedict would say — and the very fact that the word’s root is “humus” makes it all the more profound. Is that where we get the expression “down to earth”? Or is that from Icarus, who also fell “down to earth”? In either case, we are in contact with the dirt from which we are made! Let’s have and great and humble 2024!

    1. John, Thanks for reminding us of Benedict’s wise words! I recall something my nephew (very ecologically minded) said years ago when I used the word “dirt.” It’s “soil”, Auntie… He thought the word dirt connoted “waste or uselessness.” But soil implied “ability to support new life.” Anyway, your reminding us of Icarus fits right into the theme of humility. Thank you! Melannie

  10. Always stay humble and kind. Tim McGraw’s song can easily fit into your blog. Thanks for the poignant message today.

    1. Thank you, Norm, for introducing me to Tim McGraw’s song. I like Tim McGraw but I didn’t know this particular song. I’ll add it to my list of possible “blog songs.” Melannie

  11. Sr. Melannie,

    I too look forward to your blog and what inspiration I will find each week. Humility, to me, is being fully aware that I am only the conduit through which God is made visible here and now. A pretty hefty resposibility, indeed!

    I was sruck by the quote from Simone Weil, as well…..something to really reflect on.

    As I was pondering what I wanted to say to special people regarding a New Year wish, I was given the words, “I wish you a year well-lived” and that is my wish to you all.
    Mary

    1. Mary, I liked your image of us being “the conduit through which God is made visible.” Readers like you always enrich my blog! And thanks too for your beautiful wish for all of us for the new year! Melannie

  12. I’m late in replying though I’ve read your Christmas and this New Year post which was forwarded by Margaret. Thank you for sharing all your profound insights of God’s love and blessings. You are a gift and a blessing in my life. Your messages have given me much to ponder.
    Wishing you a blessed and gifted New Year.

    1. Loretta, How nice to hear from you! (Readers, Loretta is my cousin!) How nice that Margaret shared my two posts with you. I’m glad you found them worth pondering. And you have always been a blessing in my life too! Thanks so much for writing! Melannie

  13. Dear Sister, thank you for your weekly messages. I look forward to every aspect of them. This week is particularly special for me. I have a dear friend who exemplifies humility. He is facing death. He is positive, prayerful, accepting, and strong. Please pray for DJZ and his family. God bless you.

    1. Donna, What a blessing for you to know someone who exemplifies this important virtue of humility. Yes, I will say a special prayer for DIZ, his family, and you… Thank you for writing. Melannie

  14. My mother’s maiden name was Humble. I am always comforted whenever I see that word, as if I have a special relationship with it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about humility. Not only have you given me insights to ponder, I felt my Mom and Grandmother presence in your words.

    1. Kate, Your mother’s maiden name is very interesting. I can see why you are comforted by the word. I’m honored that you felt your Mom and Grandmother’s presence in my words! Melannie

  15. I volunteer at our nursing home. I think I will sing this song on my drive there this year. We are so Blessed to have you guiding us again this year.Thank You!

    1. Sue, Glad to hear you sing in your car on the way to work! What a great habit to cultivate. .. It’s a privilege for me to write this blog every week. I enjoy writing it–and reading responses from readers like you! Melannie

  16. Happy New Year to you Sister and your family of readers. I think of humble as something in us that lets us be very tender with other people.

    1. Missy, You drew a fine connection between humility and tenderness. I like that! I also like what a psychologist once said about tenderness: it is the true mark of human maturity! (Although I don’t restrict tenderness only to humans… I’ve watched too many nature program to do that!) Melannie

  17. It’s hard to love ourselves sometimes — and I think that’s part of humility. Real love for self – not putting ourselves down or being negative. Jesus tells us to love others “as you love yourself” but how many of us really take that second part seriously. Be kind to yourself and it’s easier to be kind to others because you know how good it feels – to be sincerely kind to yourself. I’m just working on learning this — and I’m into my 70s. I try to remember every day that I am “a child of God” and that He loves me and forgives me when I’m not such a great “child.” Thank you for starting our year off so beautifully. The song is one of my favorites.

    1. Patt, Thank you for reminding us of the importance of loving and respecting ourselves. Too often we are more kind to others than we are even to ourselves. “I am a child of God” is certainly something we can remind ourselves often. Thanks for writing! Melannie

  18. Sr. Melannie:
    Thank you for sharing the wisdom of humility with us. I also remember singing this song when I was in a choir but never realized the truth and peace of these words until today. Humility is not an easy virtue. We certainly do not oftentimes trust enough in God to lead the way for us. Once again, thank you for your words of wisdom. Happy New Year! May Mother Mary, on her feast, embrace you with her love.

    Susan

    1. Susan, I’m glad you are familiar with this simple yet beautiful song. Yes, seeing the connection between humility and trust in God is important. Thank you for your words of wisdom here… Melannie

  19. I always look forward to hearing from you and trust that I will take the time in this new year to spend more time caring for others in need of my time and prayers.

    Peace & joy be yours,

    Sister Maryan Russo

    1. S. Maryan, Your “resolution” is a fine one–extending care to others in need through your time and your prayers. Thank you for sharing this with us! Melannie

  20. Thank you for helping me start this New Year with such a beautiful perspective! I shared your blog with my 89-year-old mom, and together we sang the song you shared. It was precious to me! As I read your thoughts on humility, I was reminded of Paul’s words while in Athens, “For in Him we live and move and have our very being.” (Acts 17:28) Truly, apart from Him, it’s hard to do anything of lasting value. Thank you again. God’s very best to you in 2024.

    1. Patricia, How beautiful that you and your 89-year-old mother sang this song together! What a special experience that must have been for both of you. And citing St. Paul’s words here fits perfectly! God’s very best to you in 2024 too! Melannie

  21. Thank you, Sister Melannie, for featuring a virtue that is maybe the most illusive of them all.
    If we claim publicly to have humility , good chance we don’t! You are right, humility straddles
    the earthly and the transcendent. What a lifelong challenge!

    1. Pat, Yes, humility can be illusive. And if we’re “proud of our humility,” something is not quite right… I like your words, “humility straddles the earthly and transcendent.” Well put! Thanks for your contribution! Melannie

  22. You gave credence to the meaning of humility. Kudos!

    The song, like many others you post, serves to add another dimension to my mindfulness of what’s important!

    Thank you for helping me see a path to stay on that makes me strive to be a better version of my self each day. Sunflower Seeds is so inspirational.

    1. Carol, And I am honored that you find my little bog “so inspirational.” That means the Holy Spirit can use the simple words I string together to speak to you. I thank God for “working that spiritual magic.” Melannie

  23. Your words led me to reflect on expectations. I think humility can really help us be reasonable about what we expect of ourselves, from others and from life circumstances. Doing this lightens the burden we sometimes feel we have to carry. A reminder that Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and My burden light.”

    1. Kathleen, Thank you for calling attention to the idea of the unreasonable expectations we can put on ourselves and others. And you imply that if our expectations are too high, this can increase the “burden” we feel we must carry. Your quote about the yoke of Jesus is a good one for all of us to remember. Thanks for your comment! Melannie

  24. Thanks for your reflections on humility. To know ourselves, we have to be humble.
    To see ourselves as we are requires humility. To find our true self and not be laboring
    always under the weight of our false self, that requires humility. Humility is the only solution
    to pride and pride is the problem we all have to battle on a daily basis. Humility is truly a key virtue to develop, to work on, to pray for.
    Br. Luke, OSB

    1. Br. Luke, Thank you for your wise words on how we need to be humble to know ourselves, to see ourselves, and to find our true self. Amen to that! Thank you for responding! Melannie

  25. Happy new year Sr Mellannie,
    Thank you for the reflection on humility and the beautiful song. They truly spoke to my heart. I’m putting this song on the front of my Gratitude journal to see everyday in 2024.

    1. Elizabeth, I’m so glad the song spoke to your heart so much that you are putting it in from of your Gratitude journal for 2024. What a neat idea: to have Gratitude Journal and to take the time to jot down specific things on any given day for which we are grateful! I’m grateful you wrote a comment on my blog! Melannie

    1. Kathy, Welcome to “Sunflower Seeds.” If you love quotes, then you and I must share something of a “kindred spirit”! Thanks for writing a comment today! Melannie

  26. Love it, l
    ove it Sister. It reinforced what I was praying for the other day. More humility. Thank you so much for this insightful blog. Happy and healthy new yr.

  27. Happy New Year, Sister!
    Humility is often a struggle in our current culture, but it is so important to me. And I agree, Br. Luke, humility is the solution to pride, and that is often a battle for me.
    God bless us all!

    1. J Marie, I’m glad you cited Br. Luke’s words. I love it when our readers take time to read the comments of other readers. And I’m sure many of us can echo your words about our struggles with genuine humility. Thank you for your comment. Melannie

  28. I am inspired every time I read what you write! I live in Pennsylvania, not far from where you live. Do you ever give lectures in Chardon?Coincidently, just after I read your thoughts on the benefits of being humble, I came across a reflection about Teresa of Avila from the publication “Give us this day”: “ inner vision of a deeply grounded, interior life, Teresa of Avila regarded humility as a hinge virtue, and allows one to move from a sense of self-centeredness to that of unity with God and communion with God‘s creation. to know who we are, as well as who we are not, is a key component of this great virtue.”

  29. Bill, How nice to hear from a PA neighbor. (I lived in Pittsburgh for 2 years while studying at Duquesne.) I’m giving a talk in Youngstown on April 4. I don’t know if you are close to Youngstown. See the announcement on the right side of my blog… And thank you for your reference to the great St. Teresa of Avila–a very wise, loving, and humble woman! Melannie

  30. It has been a pleasure to read your reflection on humility. For me, part of humility is seeing things from another’s point of view…growing in awareness of my “own shortcomings” and the intention to help others recognize their goodness. I am what quilters might say a “WIP”
    …work in progress…I thank you Lord for your love and patience with me🙏🏻! Happy New Year!

  31. Marian, I appreciate your slant on humility: “seeing things from another’s point of view.” And thanks for the “quilter” reminder: we are all “WIP.” Amen to that! Melannie

  32. Oh Sister Melannie,
    What an excellent virtue to suggest for the New Year – Humility.

    I am new to your ministry & your blog, and I’m inspired to hear you calling for humility … as you are surely one of the more famous SND’s anywhere around…?
    (PS: I just recently Kindled your delightful little book:
    “When the Rain Speaks”. Very nice!)

    When you suggest humility, I am reminded of the famous line in Philippians:
    “He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross…”

    Indeed, Christ raised the lowly “humility” to an amazing & unrivaled form of Love.
    Impossible to imagine a death more humbling…wouldn’t you say?
    Even when baited by Pilot to “defend” himself…
    he had no words for Pilot.

    He could have recounted His miracles…?
    He could have at least asked them to locate the one cured leper who came back to thank Him….?
    Or maybe, “Could someone try to locate the man born blind…he’s got a pretty good idea of what’s going on here…?”
    How about:
    “Mary Magdalene’s out there…she will certainly testify for Me if you let Her…?”
    Nope.
    No words.
    Not even, “Pilate, you know very well what’s going on here! Why don’t you just go wash your hands…!”
    Nope.
    No words.

    In thinking of His life: Always gracious and welcoming; never demeaning or assuming the moral high ground. Never belittling, never sarcastic…always a warmth of abiding humility. Humility was indeed the marvelous cloak that surrounded His great, great Love.

    So, in 2024…May I be more humble & loving when I need to be humble & loving.
    A little more humble and loving…like the Son of God.

    Sister Melannie,
    So glad to have met up with you and your lovely ministry,

    God Bless and Keep you.
    Kirk Pelland

    1. Kirk, Welcome to my blog! I was struck by two things you said. First, “Christ raised the ‘lowly humility’ to an amazing and unrivaled form of love.” If we dig deeper into our traditional virtues, we see how, in the end, they are all related to love. Thanks for pointing that out here. Second, your description of Jesus before Pilate… how Jesus used no words, no words, to defend himself or call forth witnesses to his goodness… His “witnesses” were his teachings, the impact he had on others, and his life of unselfish loving. .. Thanks for your comment! Melannie

  33. Sr. Melanie, thank you and all your readers for the beautiful thoughts and intentions as we enter this new year. Paraphrasing and expanding on Simone Weil, with our arms outstretched and our feet planted on the ground we can accomplish great things in our own small way.

    1. John, I like your expansion of Simone Weil’s words very much! “Arms outstretched to the sky and feet firmly planted on the ground”… A lovely image! Thank you for sharing it! Melannie

  34. Sr,
    Found you in my “Living Faith” booklet.
    Why did I google your name? No coincidences, will so look forward to growing here.

  35. Sr Melannie, Although it’s already the last day of Christmas, January 6, I am finally sitting down and reading your New Year’s blog about humility. And I just love it. It reminds me of the Humility Prayer which is so powerful. And I am chuckling to myself, because I am sitting by my Christmas tree, and I just noticed that the angel at the top is beginning to fall over! Kind of like a visual to go along with your written peace on humility! Thank you so much for everything you write.

  36. Hi Sister Melannnie,
    Happy New Year! Love your blog and have grown Spiritually with your retreat last year with Regina High School alumni. Your books are close by on my book shelf.
    Know you are in my prayers and I hope to see you sometime this year,
    Take care! Fran M.

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Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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