By NEMS Daily Journal
“Humility is a virtue, not a neurosis.”
When we think of humility, we usually think of someone who is modest about accomplishments or accolades, who doesn’t brag on himself, who tends to deflect the spotlight.
That’s certainly an important part of being humble. But there’s another element of humility that is more difficult for most of us: admitting that we’re not always right, that we don’t have all the answers, that some people may know more than we do, that we can learn something from people we don’t particularly like or with whom we vigorously disagree.
It’s that kind of humility that is sometimes viewed by the world – or even ourselves – as weakness. That perception confuses rock-hard stubbornness or recalcitrance with standing for principle.
We are in the revving up stage of the presidential campaign, and humility of that sort – or any sort, really – is noticeable by its absence. To admit that the other side might have done something right or might have something to offer is seen in our current political environment as the ultimate weakness.
Politics has always been largely that way, but it is more so now, and a lack of true humility is a primary reason our political system is in such poor health and unable to respond effectively to the challenges we face.
Popular culture is much the same. In entertainment, sports and other areas of our shared culture the virtues of modesty, restraint and sportsmanship are now so rare that they stand out when we see them. More common are the “look at me” triumphalist egos parading before the cameras and lording it over others as if they were the be-all and end-all.
This is, first and foremost, a spiritual problem. A lack of humility reflects the human tendency to place ourselves at the center of creation, rather than the Creator, and to assume godlike notions of our own infallibility. That story goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden, after all.
Jesus offered the ultimate example of humility. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,” the Apostle Paul admonished, “but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you as was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself …” (Philippians 2:3-7)
A sense of humility is a recognition of our human limitations and, in the end, our total dependence on God. Humility is the first necessary step toward obedience to God, a state to which all believers are called.
But humility isn’t the same thing as humiliation or self-abasement. Humility grounded in the knowledge and love of God produces the opposite – a realization of the inherent human dignity and ultimate worth we all share as God’s creative handiwork.
In the book “Benedict’s Way,” a look at an ancient monastic order’s rule for a balanced life, the writer Lonni Collins Pratt offers this prayer for humility:
“Save me, God, from the distraction of trying to impress others. Save me also from the dangers of having done so. Help me to enjoy the praise I receive for a life well done. Help me to empty it gratefully into the ocean of your love. Teach me to learn from fair criticism, to hear it with a clear head, and to resist the urge to defend myself against it immediately. Give me good sense to remember that I’m not at the center of the universe. Free me from myself, my virtues, my powerful rightness. Lord, have mercy. Amen.”