So, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been diligently working and spending time with the family, and a curious question was raised, which I thought was food for thought. When we see our fellow man act with some level of contrition, are we associating a measure of humility to their actions or are we so focused on our lives we don’t notice at all? Does humility require us to be subservient, contrite, or on many levels something other than ourselves as we feel we should be? Is humility an ability to self-deprecate and lower ourselves so we can be liked by perceived superiors? These are the questions which have been rattling around my brain, so I wanted to go more in depth with you and hopefully we can find a way to embrace our humility and yet retain all of who we are and how this applies to our pursuit of love in God.
When we look at a simple definition of humility we see the most basic of answers; “freedom from pride or arrogance, the state of being humble” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). When I think of the word pride, I immediately imagine a patriotic banner swaying in the air, and music which evokes an emotional response tied to heroic events sweeps through my mind. Though, in this case the pride which humility seeks quash, is the pride we take when we can’t accept our wrongness as it pertains to us and the people around us. The first example I can think of is when the devil tempts Adam and Eve with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3), their desire to know as much as God and their pursuit of control amounted to a prideful pursuit of self-sufficiency, to rule themselves as they see fit. This pride became arrogance as the devil continued to whisper in Eve’s ear about how she could do things and make decisions just as good as God, and the combination of her pride and arrogance mixed with Adam’s own pride and arrogance gave rise to an unhumble desire to control. Isn’t this what an unhumble person becomes, someone who can’t be told what to do, a person who can’t accept their fallibility, or a person who sees what they are doing as wrong (by all conventional and moral standards) but desires the control and will do anything to keep it? I’m sure we all know people (could even be us) who fit the bill, and as Christians we are bound in our pursuit for the love of God, to be a representation of someone who is humble in life.
Now, isn’t it just that easy? You say to yourself, “I want to be humble, so now I’m going to be humble.” I find, it is much more difficult to put into action than just saying those words. Peter Kreeft, Angels & Demons, remarks about the super intelligence both angels and demons possess. Their intelligence on it’s lowest level makes our smartest human beings resembling the intelligence of a dog. This isn’t to say we are dumb, just not as smart as they are. As we understand and apply our knowledge of the intelligence paradigm, it is much easier to understand the crafty nature of the devil and demons which pursue us and latch on to our arrogant and prideful natures. It is also not too difficult to see how playing on someone’s need for attention and need not to forcible made to be meek in the sight of everyone would prompt them to take a path where humility is looked down upon rather than something which seeks to harness the true reflection of God’s light. At every moment of every day, we are being tested to make decision which have no humility whatsoever, so we can pursue earthly accolades.
As a father and husband, I feel like I am challenged to walk this humble line constantly by trying to be the living example of what Christ wants us to be, and to be a man in this world. I’m constantly challenged to be kind in the face of insult by exterior events, but at the same time I’m challenged to be humble in front of my family, especially when I’m wrong. Truly wrong this is, I’ve lost my temper and acted so poorly in the past, I was faced with two options, either accept the humiliation of my wrongness or continue to move forward with my unjust behavior and in doing so create an example to the people whom I love dearly, with an example which leads them down a path of selfishness and despair. We all, as a matter of learning our humility, must in many instances face the humiliation required to learn this very basic but important learning block of our spiritual development where the result is God’s love for all eternity.
This is an interesting turn of events, when we think about what we must learn to continue in our growth. Much like we all had to learn to write letters before we could read or compose full sentences. We must learn how to accept what creates our unhappy nature before we can pursue the joyful path. This is to say, we can’t possibly know which path to walk down, unless we’re shown this path, and in some cases irrespective of our desires we choose the wrong path, and in doing so we are given perspective to decide to continue this path or face the humiliation. This humiliation hopefully causes us to take stock of our decisions and never walk the wrong path again. The instances of humiliation we face from day-to-day, are seemingly poignant reminders of our straying from the desire to pursue God.
I’ve faced humiliation more times than I care to remember, and one lesson I can take away from my learnings is the complete and total embarrassment which set me on a path, so I wouldn’t repeat the behavior/process again. I hated the notion and even the feeling of setting myself down a notch, especially in front of those people who were blameless yet suffered my pride and arrogance. At the same time my embarrassment was reaching its zenith, I could also feel a growth in my behavior. I could feel a movement past where I was currently at in my growth spiritually and in my understanding of others. In other words, I felt as though I was learning to love, through my own humility.
We can never hope to gain all humble circumstances within the confines of our comfortable surroundings, we are pushed through our life to move from one changing circumstance to another, and in the process of doing so, we learn the pitfalls which allow us to gain traction in understanding. This isn’t to say we learn on the first time we fail at anything, I personally have failed more times than I care to remember, on the same subject or topic. The more difficult the topic the more times and effort may be needed to fully comprehend the humility we hope to attain.
As a husband, I know I’m in the dubious leagues of eating some humble pie to attain a paradigm of understanding and application of love. When I was younger, I foolishly thought my passion for life and what I did, would translate to an application of love. I thought, if I approach everything the same way, with the same amount of fervor, I would have fair to similar results and this would be fine for me in life. I was a perfectionist when it came to my hobbies and general pursuits in life, and I just figured, everything would fall in place when it came to my spouse. I intended to just approach life in the same haphazard manner I approached everything, and I would just learn along the way. Marriage just isn’t this way! To begin, marriage is a sacred covenant between your spouse and yourself, a focus only to be beaten by your faith, is absolutely required. This person, who is your spouse completes you, they balance your place in the fabric of time, for however long they are here with you, and evenly yoked, they present the challenge of family and faith as a matter of path for your very existence. You mission, as it were, becomes the movement of both husband and wife through and ever-changing landscape, requiring a steadfast approach to compassion and love, but to bend as the tree will do in large storms but never break. Though, we do break sometimes, we do need to be fixed sometimes, and in the processes, which requires the time and attention needed by both spouses, continually sets the foundation of solid stone and regrows (obviously with God’s help) a loving environment.
So, this is where I was at with my own relationship with my wife. I needed to humble myself, and truly understand where my wife was at, more than choosing to think I was the only one in pain. She also needed this, and together we were both broken, but we needed each other to mend our brokenness. My wife, who is an angel, was in pain because of me and because of failed expectations, I was in pain because of me and failure to care what the expectations, which were lovingly asked of me, were needed to grow our love in God’s eyes through the covenant of our marriage. In the end, we both became fighting and selfish to what we wanted, and the irony was we really didn’t know what we wanted. We thought we were going to do everything ourselves, our pride, our arrogance was going to fix the problems we inevitably faced because of our pride and our arrogance. This became a revolving door of misery for us, no matter what I attempted to do, I was getting things wrong, and no matter what love she tried to show me, I interpreted it as anything other than love. We didn’t trust each other, and we didn’t want to be the first to give in, for fear of showing weakness, or so I thought. In my monumental arrogance, I failed to see, my wife was there with open arms, and in her unconditional way was giving me herself (much like the day we said our vows). God helped her in a humble path, and she was humbly waiting for me. I am completely floored when I think about this now, when I realized this at the time, I was embarrassed and didn’t know how someone could love me so much. She did! Little by little, she patiently waited, and we eventually were yoked evenly again, and since this time, we’ve moved side-by-side in patient step with God’s will. We recognized, it is far better to stand together, realizing God lifts us both up, and allowing his light to shine in everything we do. It’s not about whether I got what I wanted, or she obtained the expectation she hoped for, but it is, and has always been about the journey to find truth in love.
This is a funny concept, one which I’ve met people over the years, and I’ve had them explain to me their perception of what a truth is, and as a matter of course, they indicate a destination of understanding rather than a journey. Humility isn’t just about knowing what we did to bring us to the point we are at now, but instead it’s about perceiving just how every step can affect every perception and every action we take. Our journey in life is what forms us so when we do meet an expectation or a goal, we will know just what to do with it. Humility must be attained if we are ever to understand who we are in relation to a loving God. If you think back in your life and you meditate on those individuals who carried the most influence and seemed to show a love in one way or another, you should see the marks of an individual who humbled themselves to be a loving foundation of your life. If you are one who has never been able to knowingly acknowledge a presence of love, look deeper and know, there have been people all along the way, but with every ounce of humility they are harder and harder to find. Which is a good way of saying, they are involved with you daily. Those who are so humble as to be almost non-existent in your life, not because they aren’t there, but because you never noticed those things which they do for you to carry you forward. Perhaps someone holds the door open for you, allowing you to walk in first, maybe someone at work is willing to accept more work because your shift has ended, and they intuit your need to go home, or maybe a beggar at the stop light, looking for a handout stares at you and with fluidity says, “God Bless You” and then walks on. None of these instances carries with it a perceived notion of a life changing event, but in their humility, they give what charity they can (the effect of a true charitable love). Of course, we’ve all talked to a friend who states, “those beggars probably make more money than we do”, or they might say “well if they are willing to stand at the corner, then why can’t they work”. Though the truth of the matter is more nuanced than the simple observation of an impropriety or perceived laziness. Perhaps the real humility is to recognize, someone of lower societal stature than yourself, can look into your eyes and pray for you with three simple words, and your inability to recognize this humility is indicative of a path still untrod and still in need of travel. You must humble yourself to understand, even if the person doesn’t mean what they say, you can draw a deeper understanding a deeper meaning and in this newfound perception your humble response should be one of gratitude. A gratitude for a truth being revealed.
I know for some; a perceived naivety can be construed by what I’ve written but allowing those who wish to fool us or take advantage of us grants us an understanding (at times) to understand the person who is in enough pain to hurt another. Yep, that’s right, someone willing to hurt us in one way or another is truly in pain. They’ve left the path of love, which exudes joy with every step, and they’ve entered darkness, and although they may not realize exactly where they are at, the innate need for God’s love in our lives will project pain when we push the light of love away. This pain will be reflective in outward actions towards others, your humility and understanding are paramount in these situations. Your ability to put your pride, ego, arrogance, and need for honor will steer you and hopefully those who need your example in the proper direction. The best example of those who need the most influence are our children, as we all know, they are easily influenced and respond to exhibitions of natural and unconditional love. This means, yes you must say no and be the bad guy. In the end, their acknowledgement of truth, as a humble person would accept truth, will in its recognition through their own humiliation of being wrong or even right create a loving individual on a path to find God.
So, are we really being humble in our every day lives? I know I am not, I know I can find more and experience more in my life to create in me, a humble heart. I know I can find love in the darkest of places, those places exist in my heart and in the hearts of the people I am in contact with every day. As we find those places of darkness, we see despair, desolation, a sense of hopelessness and it only appears this way because of the darkness. Find humility in your every action, find a sense of right through your wrong. Don’t be fearful of being wrong, it just might be what you need to find the path God has set forth for you. Above all else, be the light which burns the brightest because you’ve lowered yourself and attained an overflowing measure of humility. To find humility we must seek understanding, as we journey for understanding, we find humility was the ability to recognize our weakness and our wrongness as the foundation for understanding all along. Look within yourself and you will find the humble place your heart desires to be, because as we are made in the image and likeness, this humility is the unconditional love given by God. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!