It’s tough to find books on humility. Humilitas, from my course reading list is pretty good, written by an Ozzie named John Dickson. He starts out by saying, “the most influential and inspiring people are often marked by humility” (page 19) and he goes on to visit characters we know by name. Sir Edmund Hilary, Gandhi, Dr. Albert Schweitzer and GK Chesterton, the latter of whom he quotes as saying, “human pride is in fact the engine of mediocrity. It fools us into believing that we have ‘arrived’, that we are complete, that there is little else to learn. Humility, by contrast, reminds us that we are small and incomplete and so urges us on toward the heights of artistic, scientific and societal endeavor.” (from Orthodoxy)
Along with all this ‘humble’ contemplation, I have been thinking about the ways in which I sabotage my own good. Have you thought about that? Maybe everyone does and I am just slow to the plate.
The pride of life focuses on achievement, status, and an illusion of power. It also tends to be reactive (‘panic in search of a trigger’), placates (herding instinct), focuses on ways in which others have let us down (blame), and defaults to a quick-fix mentality (low pain threshold). Arrogance is all foam and nonsense. Like a bad cup of cappuccino. Allowing myself to coddle the lie that I am somehow complete, that there is little else to learn, sabotages what I am designed for. It seriously limits my capacity to grow, and to appreciate ways others – especially diverse others – engage together to enrich that growth.
My Women’s Voices prof at Carey says, “Learning is for the brave!” Yes, and courage is evidence of humility. The cool thing about humility is its relational qualities. Every person, whether we know them well – as in family – or not so well – as in a stranger on the street – has the capacity to influence and inspire, if we are alert to their unique otherness. That takes stepping outside of what we know and being open to expose our limitations.
St Paul’s thoughts are helpful, “I don’t want anyone imagining me as anything other than the fool you’d encounter if you saw me on the street or heard me talk…I take my limitations in stride and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size…I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” (I Cor. 12.6-10)
Dear God, guard me from mediocrity and sabotage, even by my own hand. Thanks for my limitations and the good cheer they bring me. Help me forget to be humble and just be it.