"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Humility and How I Achieved It:10 Easy Steps

We have an ongoing joke in our home (one even my 11 year old daughter is now using!). When you say something that sounds ridiculously prideful (or the minute you realized you just did)... you know, that "I know it all" or "I am always right" type comment... your following comment might be, "And, you know I am about to publish my next book entitled, The 10 Easy Steps to Humility and How I Achieved It." After the book comment, everyone will chuckle and ignore the fact that you just sounded like an arrogant snob in your previous statement.

Humility... how do you even write about it.

Years back I read a fascinating article on humility that did assert steps to achieving it. It was written by St. Theresa of Avila in the 16th century. I can no longer find the document, but I distinctly remember the first step. I remember the first one it because it was so very challenging... and I couldn't (didn't) do it at the time. In step one, she suggested you genuinely befriend the most difficult person you know. At that time in my life there was a woman that I had trouble being in the same room with... she was that difficult for me to be around. Befriend her... ??

Ah... but here is the rub. True humility in my heart would allow me to see this woman as higher than myself. When showing us a picture of the humble God-man, Jesus, Paul in Philippians tells us to "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." So, if I was able to truly see this difficult woman as better than myself, then I could easily befriend her. And, thus the challenge of Theresa's list... and why I had to stop at step #1. I wonder how I would fair now, 10 years later, with that same list. Could I attempt step #1 and achieve it now? Have I changed, grown, or been strengthened in my humility?

I shared with my family this morning this verse that has been bumping around in my head, "consider others better than yourself". My sweet daughter blurted out, "Oh! I like that verse"... and then she paused and said with a slight grin, "Well, at least I like it when others live it out and think of me as better then themselves!" We all laughed and then she said, "and now for my book, The 5 Easy Steps to Humility and How I Got There". The laughter continued as we all felt the challenge of her words. Yep, me too, sweet girl. Me, too. I, too, like it when others live it out...

Oh the pride in our hearts! Oh the pride in my own heart... so deep and so thoroughly ingrained in my make up.

Scripture does give us some help and direction toward humility. There are "steps" of sorts, aren't there? Step one might be "consider others as more important than yourself" and step two, "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment" (Romans 12). What might it look like to think of myself with sober judgement? The Greek phrase used in this passage apparently means to think of your self rightly, or from a state of a right mind. Humility step #2 might mean that I know who I am... rightly. Not higher. Not lower. For pride can take both forms: arrogance and self-abasement... both are turned looking inward and selfish or self-centered.

I read a quote this morning that started this pondering, this wandering journey in my head and heart: "If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are." (Mother Teresa) It seems to be a theme, of sorts, when dealing with the issue of humility. ...to know what you are. ...to know who you are.

I am most certainly touched by praise and disgrace--- profoundly touched at times.

Is this the quality that marked Jesus with humility? He certainly was untouched by the praise and the disgrace. Was it simply that He knew who He was, what He was, who His Father was...?

So, I won't be writing a book anytime soon on humility, to be sure! And, my family will laugh with me as I stumble around making prideful statements. And, I will internally contend with the selfish turn of my heart. But, oh, how I want to change... Oh! how I want to learn from my friend, Jesus.

So much to learn, Lord. So far to go! Teach me, Lord, I ask.
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