Tuesday, June 21, 2011

pride and humility

I have been mulling this over for quite some time.
Yes even before the present issue that this calls to mind. I have in fact, been wrestling with the definition of humility, and how it pertains to the way we think about ourselves on a daily basis. It sinks pretty deep, all the way down to my motivations for anything and everything I do.

Bob and I were talking about it. He has been facilitating some of the meetings of The King's Men and the topic of humility was one of their discussion points.  He brought up false humility. He used the example of how sometimes, after we played music at a mass, people occasionally would come up to us and say complimentary things. If we knew we had done a decent job of it, put in many practice hours, carefully chosen appropriate selections, and still said, "no, it wasn't good", that would be false humility. It wouldn't be true. I have been taught that true humility is simply telling the truth about ourselves. We don't think we are the greatest, but yes, we like to know that we haven't assaulted ears while doing what we love. We also know Who gave us any ability to begin with. We think of what we do as a vocation.

And the more I thought about it,the more it kept bringing me back to vocation. And also the personal, Father/daughter relationship with my Lord. My vocation is as a wife and mother. I am not the greatest of either, but I keep trying, and there has been fruit. I acknowledge that all the fruit is because of His grace. I added in my 2% of willingness, and some effort, but even getting that far was motivated by not wanting to visit my past mistakes upon my family. Now that is the truth.
 I have told a bit about a  few of the more personal encounters I have had with Jesus. One of the themes common to those times was that there was an overwhelming sense of being loved and accepted. Most of those occurred during times of my life that could easily be defined with terms such as; wayward, lost, confused, or just depressed. For clarity, I wasn't obviously deserving of God's approval. However, his being God and all, He knew what I needed. He was the quintessential father, doing what fathers do best. Loving and accepting. That love and acceptance freed me enough to be able to move forward again. It gave me enough confidence to believe I could get out of the rut, even with all the many hurdles I knew I would have to clear. Even though He knew all my actions were not "kosher" yet, and wouldn't be for years, He assured me of His love.

Back to humility/pride. God made us all very different from one another. In one of my recent posts, I included a quote of Father Jacques Philippe--

For God, each person is absolutely unique. Holiness is not the realization of a given model of perfection that is identical for everyone. It is the emergence of an absolutely unique reality that God alone knows, and that he alone brings to fruition. No individual knows what his own holiness consists of. Holiness is only revealed to us by degrees, as we journey on, and it is often something very different from what we imagine, so much so that the greatest obstacle on the path to holiness may be to cling too closely to the image we have of our own perfection.  

For me, part of my journey has been being able to feel confident about myself, and comfortable carrying out the different aspects of my vocation. Even just being myself. Sound decidedly un-humble yet? But here's the thing. God made me with certain personality traits, talents and attributes. I lived for a goodly number of years in an environment in which every single thing I did was criticized. Even things I did well. When there was laughter, it was not with me, it was at me. I still look upon so much of what I do and even who I am with a critical eye. This is different from examining my conscience. It is more like assaulting my conscience. It allows for very little peace of heart.
 I believe the Lord is not going for this kind of self hatred when He teaches about humility.

The best definition of humility I've ever heard is this: "Humility is not denying the power you have but admitting that the power comes through you and not from you." If you deny the power you've been given, you lie. If you have a fine voice, to depreciate it is to show a lack of appreciation for it. If you've been given a talent for making money (and I believe it is a talent), then use it and be the trustee of it. If your talent is administration, then help things to happen. I don't believe that God is giving any talent for irresponsibility, and that is what we are showing when we fail to recognize, appreciate, and use the talent that we have been given.
-Fred Smith

Part of who He has made me to be is: 1. a leader;  2. something of an analyst; 3. a musician; 4. an advocate; 5. someone who desires to transmit His love and mercy, and 6. someone who likes to make numbered lists. Just to name a few. But if I am afraid to lead, or second guess myself into oblivion, wondering if it is too strong or forceful looking; or if I am too timid when I go to sing, and don't do as well as I am able, for fear of looking too diva-esque, is that somehow more glorifying to Him?

I think that we are allowed, nay even expected, to be the best of who He has made us. He knows we will do life imperfectly. But if we have our motivations and vocation in mind, our mistakes will be more failures than outright sins.

I am trying to allow room for a certain comfort and happiness in my life. By this, I do not mean narcissism or license.  But rather an appropriate expression of whatever He has given me, with all thankfulness. I don't think He intends that our quest for holiness become a constant drag and heaviness, clouding all we do with uncertainty.

I believe it is possible to move forward with confidence. We know where our power comes from, we know that if  "Jesus I trust in You" is the prayer of our hearts, then we won't go too far off course.

There is a difference between meekness and weakness. Not every person was created to be shy and retiring.

Mother Angelica went up against some high ups in the Church ---http://www.catholictradition.org/Mary/fatima43.htm---she was famous, on TV, had a "following", didn't mince words, and fought against what she saw going wrong in the Church.

 God has endowed us each with a unique part in the advancement of His kingdom. He did not use any cookie cutters.


  1. This was a very good analysis. I have to admit that pride is probably my biggest sin. I'm afraid humility doesn't come easy for me. But there is a point where a person is just self flagilating oneself (metaphorically) over degrading one's abilities. I like your nuance. If you acknowledge your abilities come through God, then one isn't really being prideful.

  2. I finally got my laptop fixed and at home. I completed that Father's Day blog. Hope you can check it out.