"Humility Is a Discipline"
Originally published on 1-5-14
Name four people that you know personally that you would classify as humble?
(Sun sets…sun rises)
Ok…name one. Nothing? I had a hard time too. Maybe humility is a lost art. Pope Francis! He’s the only truly humble person I could think of, and that’s in theory. He hasn’t yet responded to my invitation for afternoon tea.
I would classify myself as self-deprecating, grateful, fortunate and kind. But humble, not so much. I have a healthy sized ego that convinces me it’s smaller than it actually is. The ego is a tricky son of a gun.
Over the last year or two the horse that I’ve sat atop has progressively gotten higher and higher. Not cannabis high (thanks, Cuomo), higher in height. I couldn’t quite put my finger on that change, but I’m seasoned enough to know that the pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
As I started to color inside the lines and make better decisions I also recognized that I was becoming more judgmental. I found that I was judging folks just beyond my level of dysfunction. Maybe I had been in their spot and maybe I hadn’t, but I found myself raising an eye brow, or shaking my head in disbelief. Well, I would never do that! -- Man, that’s a bad decision she’s making. -- If I were her… -- Doesn’t she know that could give her health problems? – I’d never wear that. The judgment reel played inside my head, never out loud.
I could feel my humility calcifying. It’s like when I was blatantly screwing up it was easy to be humble. I knew I was low to the ground and I had a LONG way before I could stand tall again, but once I had some solid confidence under my belt I acted a little too big for my britches.
But this morning my self-righteous with a side of judgment was put to rest. My Pastor relayed a story which jolted me back into perspective. (Again, I urge you to follow Pastor Clark and Greater Mt. Zion in any way you can—there are phone apps—it will change your life.)
A reporter was interviewing a lady after much career success. She was a distinguished author that had sold millions of books. The reporter asked her, “Do you find it hard to stay humble after so much success?” The author smiled and replied with, “Do you remember the scene in the Bible where Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as the King of Israel? There was a large enthusiastic crowd shouting, Hosanna, and palm branches were being waved as a symbol of victory. People were even throwing their garments in the street as a sign of overarching joy and support.” “Yes,” the reporter replied. “Do you think for one second that donkey thought any of that praise and encouragement was for him?”
That story immediately struck a chord. What an incredible way to describe humility. Whether you believe in God or a higher power or karma or a force field that touches us all, this is a lesson we can each sit with.
I understand that it is easy to sit perched atop our high horse once we think we’ve been there, done that. We forget the days when we felt like dog doo and all we wanted was some guidance, grace and mercy. We get some fortune, love, some international traveling, we cut out the drama and all of sudden we think, look at those people over there making all those ridiculous choices. Lest we not forget, there but for the grace of God, go I.
As my humility whittled down, I could feel a little something, but I wasn’t quite sure how to identify it until today. Now I know my humility was in need of a defibrillator.
Let’s be cautious of adopting qualities such as arrogance, self-righteousness and judgment. Those qualities are destructive at worst and unseemly at best. Let’s avoid fanning the wrong flames inside ourselves. Let’s focus on cultivating the qualities that will help us lead fulfilling, joy filled, love filled lives.
I was having a leisurely lunch with a friend a few months ago and I said, “Humility is an art.” And over a fresh spring roll dipped in peanut sauce she said, “Humility is a discipline.” I loved her words then, but I understand them now. If we value humility, it is a virtue that demands to be kept at the forefront of our awareness.