How to Eat Humble Pie

At church we talked about humility as part of the Rule of Benedict in chapter 7 (and humility, of course, comes from the Bible in many parts of Scripture). I used to think I was pretty good at being humble (which is the first sign that I'm not really humble). I don't tend to think of myself as better than others; sometimes I can revel in my lowly status (second sign of not being humble).

One of my pet peeves is self-centered drivers. You know the ones: they zoom down the side of the road to get up to the front of the line when everyone else is patiently merging for the construction zone, they'll speed around you on the street only to turn at the next corner, they won't use their blinker or stop fully at stop signs or even stop at all on a red light. I get irritated by people who are clearly only thinking of themselves when they are on the road.

Of course, I've realized, I'm only irritated because those people often inconvenience me.

And as I get older, I realize that most all of the problems I create in life I do so because I'm being selfish. I'm focused on myself and my own desires rather than thinking about others or who my actions might impact.

The final twelfth step of the downward-climbing ladder of humility according to St. Benedict is "reached when a [person] shows humility in his heart and in his appearance and actions" (RB 7.145).

One might think that humility, like meekness, is weak--that it means letting people walk all over you. This is untrue. Christ calls us to love others as we love ourselves. We can't love others unless we're taking care of our own needs.

For example, I'm learning to be better about disciplining students at school. My tendency has always been to let some things slide. I'll crack down when it's serious, but I tend to turn a blind eye before that point because I don't want students to think of me as one of those "mean" staff people. Of course by not disciplining--by not correcting improper actions--I'm only thinking of myself. I don't want them not to like me. But the action that is helpful for everyone--including the misbehaving student--is to address the issues that are occurring. Humility means knowing my place. And when I'm a parent or working at school, that means I have the responsibility to correct students' misbehavior. When someone else in authority addresses me, it is my place to listen to them.

My ego gets in the way of God's will. I still turn to it way too often, but it does me no good. So, like most things, I've got a way to go. Maybe knowing that is one of the first steps to humility. (Though Benedict would say that the first step is "taken when a man obeys all of God’s commandments–never ignoring them, and fearing God in his heart" (RB 7.131).)


Mary said...

Lots of wonderful lessons in here, Rev. Dave. Thank you!

Rev. Dave said...

Thanks, Mary. Now if I can just do well at learning them...