Humility. It is defined as freedom from pride or arrogance and the quality or state of being humble. It should be a quality we all strive to achieve and even master, but trying to do so can be well, rather humbling. I’ve seen it firsthand personally quite a bit recently.
I saw it over the weekend as my college football team beat up on their cross-state rival in a powerful fashion and in a way they have done so historically year after year. I was so happy and felt so proud. We are better than them. It felt good to say that (even though “we” is really just the team) but in the back of my prideful head I heard myself forever telling my daughter that if there’s anything mom hates, it’s “phony, sneaky, and braggy.” I was indeed braggy that day. Stay proud and happy, but stay somewhat humble and respectful. Okay, maybe the next day but on that day, humility was not my thought process.
I’ve also witnessed a president who worked tirelessly albeit haughtily to help this country, which he loves so much, get better and be better. Ultimately however, his perceived lack of humility may have been his ultimate downfall despite many successes on behalf of all Americans. It’s also undoubtedly left him humble. We shall see how it all unfolds, but whatever the case, one can’t help but be humbled when facing what he is.
I saw my friend post the above meme and thought to myself, “now that’s humbling.” Yes, we’ve all been challenged and frustrated, but maybe we’ve also grown and learned. Let’s not take any of it for granted.
Humility is not something today’s society pushes. We are an extremely self-absorbed and self-centered people that expect the world and feel entitled to everything and anything. Just yesterday I was talking to my daughter about how amazed (and to be honest, dismayed) I am at how many “Happy Birthday” posts I see friends giving to friends online but the photos chosen for those posts are mostly ones of themselves…certainly their best shots and poses regardless of how the actual birthday boy or girl looks. Why? Are we that impressed with ourselves? Are we narcissistic? Are we so very starved for validation and compliments?
Every two minutes we take more pictures today than all of humanity did before the year 1900. Scroll through any social media and you’ll see post after post of those you follow full of shot after shot of themselves. No message; no purpose; just “look how pretty and awesome I am.” Many of those pictures are often actually even looking into a mirror.
In doing my prayer and meditation yesterday and “attending” mass online, I learned that God does indeed want us to look in the mirror but not to flatter ourselves but to see Him. You see, God will recognize us as we strive to recognize Him. But what does He look like? Look in the mirror as God is in all of us. From there we’re instructed to look around and at others, recognize Him in them, and treat everyone accordingly. I know! Tough call sometimes right?! As we look at others, are we judging and criticizing them? Do we consider ourselves better and smarter than them? Do we instead recognize the one thing they do good rather than all the things they do that we don’t like and will He ultimately look at us in our final hours and say “I don’t recognize you” or “Hey there. Good job!”
In another reading I learned that St. Paul specifically warns Timothy about signs that, for lack of better words, are not good. They are biblical and can be divided into four groups: the exaltation of self, the rejection of authority, the rejection of moral standards, and a vicious and unloving citizenship. I don’t think I need to go any further for you to realize that all four accurately and alarmingly describe the times we’re living in today.
Immorality and decadence? Check check.
Intolerance and unwillingness to reconcile? Check check.
It’s unarguable that a general self-centeredness and increasing level of narcissism has invaded our culture and there is zero doubt there is a prevailing rejection and lack of respect for authority permeating and increasing in society, whether it be for law enforcement, teachers, parents, and the basic rule of law. And let’s not forget for one minute that the devil is often called “the lawless one.”
Then there’s the rejection of moral standards. Again, I can quickly move on from this one without many arguing that our country’s values and ethics are declining. The last one rings true today as well, as we have indeed become a society of anonymous insults and thoughtless acts and violence is now considered free speech, “peaceful” and a “right” or privilege.
This ain’t good people. Could humility really be the answer?
Maybe so. But I’m not talking the humility so often considered as being quiet and shy, non-competitive, or lacking self-confidence. I’m talking the humility that rejoices in one’s success but not at the expense of others and believes in oneself but ultimately believes in a higher power. Work hard and compete, yes, but keep your accomplishments in check and don’t confuse confidence with arrogance. Be strong but also strong enough to lift up others.
If you think you are always right and always want to get your way; you’re not humble.
If you rarely apologize and always try to “school” and “educate” others; you’re not humble.
If you don’t listen and long for esteem and praise, you’re not humble.
If you’re always making excuses for yourself and justifying your behavior, you’re not humble.
If you hide your true self and hang on to envy, you’re not humble.
If you refuse to carry out menial tasks and are extremely materialistic, you’re not humble.
Surprising some of those, right? So where do we start?
For all of this we need look no further than Jesus. In addition to all of the above, He chose to ride a donkey into Jerusalem; the lowest of the low in the animal world at the time and used by ordinary people to do their very ordinary work. He also chose to be born in a stable among animals; not in a castle among kings and royalty. He worked as a carpenter alongside His humble and obedient dad, hung out the prostitutes and tax collectors in hopes of redeeming them, and died on a cross. You don’t get much more humble than that sports fans.
And speaking of sports fans, this one’s looking in the mirror today and being grateful her team won but also looking around and knowing that even though my team was better than theirs that one day, I’m no better than them. As we celebrate Thanksgiving and eat pecan and pumpkin pie later this week, let’s be sure to also have some humble pie because when we’re humble, we all win.