Saturday, March 19, 2016

Preparing for Holy Week: Humility

This is a "repost" from previous years for Holy Week. However, I need it every single year to keep in mind for my own preparation ... and so thought I'd share them with y'all as well.

If I could be truly humble then everything else would fall into line ... the obedience, the loving others, loving God with our whole hearts, What a luxury that would be. Why is it so difficult to be humble? There are lots of answers to that. This fact remains. Just when I think I have it licked, my self jumps up and blindsides me into acting just the opposite.

We all have our own paths and problems with this essential virtue. With that in mind, I have gathered these words of wisdom for a weekend meditation.
This is long but worth it. Keep in mind that this C.S. Lewis piece was written during World War II as a series of letters being written by a senior demon advising his nephew on how best to gain souls. Therefore the perspective is topsy-turvy. For example, "The Enemy" is God, "Our Father" is the devil, and the "Patient" is the human under discussion.

You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point. The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. And since what they are trying to believe may, in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we may have the chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible. To anticipate the Enemy's strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor's talents -- or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall. He wants each man, in the long run, to be able to recognize all creatures (even himself) as glorious and excellent things. He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love -- a charity and gratitude for all selves including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbors as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbors. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait in our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken away with His left...
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Humility isn't the same thing as having a poor self-image. It's not about low self-esteem. It isn't about letting yourself become someone else's doormat. What it does mean, though, is that we recall always our utter dependence on God -- for life, for grace, for salvation. Humility knocks us off the pedestal we build for ourselves and helps us to realize that the universe doesn't revolve around us. The humble person learns to be indifferent to whether or not people praise him as much as he thinks he deserves. The humble person knows how to hold her tongue -- and her peace -- when things don't work out as she would prefer. Humility makes us consider that maybe the other guy is the one who's right.

To be humble means to be slow in asserting our wills, to hesitate before we insist on our rights, to swallow our pride and our complaints and our contrary opinions more often than we give vent to them. There are, of course, moments when it is right or even necessary to insist on our way and to tell everyone what we think: those moments, though, are far fewer than most of us would like to think. So many of those whom the culture praises as strong and assertive are merely self-absorbed and proud. Humility means to become small in spirit, like a little child, even though we may be wealthy, intelligent, and powerful in fact.
from the now defunct Dappled Things blog

Humility is the luxurious art of reducing ourselves to a point, not to a small thing or a large one, but to a thing with no size at all.
G.K. Chesterton

For the most part, I do the thing which my own nature prompts me to do. It is embarrassing to earn so much respect and love for it.
Albert Einstein

When I am paid a compliment, I must compare myself with the little donkey that carried Christ on Palm Sunday. And I say to myself: If that little creature hearing the applause of the crowd, had become proud and had begun -- jackass that he was -- to bow his thanks right and left like a prima donna, how much hilarity he would have aroused! Don't act the same!
Cardinal Luciani, later Pope John Paul I

In fact, my philosophy is it's none of my business what other people think of me.
Jim Caviezel

... when the fault for a broken vase was wrongly put on her she kissed the ground and promised to be more careful.
Saint Therese of Lisieux

If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know who you are.
Mother Teresa

True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit--it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us.
Tryon Edwards

God is not proud...He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him.
CS Lewis


  1. Here are two quotes for you from Fr. Gabriel in his book of meditations, "Divine Intimacy":

    "If our obedience is faulty, it is almost always because we are wanting in humility." (#125)

    "Humility is to charity [love] what the foundation is to a building." (#106)