Humility

I really like this one. George Washington Carver, the botanist who developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut (including the peanut butter!) once remarked: “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.”

Rosa Parks died very recently. She was an unassuming, modest Afro-American seamstress. She will be remembered in history as the woman who one day in 1955 in a bus in Alabama, refused to stand up for a white man, thus sparking a massive undercurrent that changed US culture. In her book Quiet Faith, she wrote. “As a child I learned to trust in God and not to be afraid. I have always felt comforted by reading the Psalms, especially Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want) and 27 (The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?)”

Humility is a winner, while pride is a loser. Former heavy-weight boxer James (Quick) Tillis is a cowboy from Oklahoma who fought out of Chicago in the early 1980s. He still remembers his first day in the Windy City after his arrival from Tulsa. “I got off the bus with two cardboard suitcases under by arms in downtown Chicago and stopped in front of the Sears Tower. I put my suitcases down, and I looked up at the Tower and I said to myself, ‘I’m going to conquer Chicago.’ When I looked down, the suitcases were gone.”

The Bible says it. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (Proverbs 16:18). And at least three times (Psalms, Peter and James) the Word of God repeats the assertion that “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble”.

Humility is not stupidity. Saint Teresa used to say that a humble person is a person who walks in truth. And what is truth? The truth about is that we are weak, broken beings loved by a God who is crazy about us!

The problem is that we forget this and act many times like … balloons. Balloons are nice toys, very colorful and bright on the outside. On the inside however they are empty. We also get all puffed up with our own importance. We think we are great and we expect everyone else to think so too. Maybe it is because we are so good looking, or maybe it is because we are so smart. Maybe we are really good in sports, or perhaps we are the best one at our line of work. Sooner or later, however if we keep getting puffed up with our own importance, something will happen to us that will burst our balloon!

The Bible teaches us that if we are too proud and think too highly of ourselves, we are headed for a fall. On the other hand, if we are humble, and realize that it is through God’s strength that we are able to do great things, we will be given a place of honor in the kingdom of God.

One of the most beautiful paragraphs that I read about humility comes from the Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. Listen to it. “Some of you may remember that the word ‘humility’ comes from the Latin humus, the fertile ground. Humility is not a condition which we try to ape by saying that we are unworthy, that we are not as good as others imagine us to be – if they do. Humility is a condition of the earth, lying completely open and surrendered: the earth which is open to all actions, of mankind, of the rain, accepting the refuse and accepting the furrow and bringing fruit, surrendered, offered and given. This is the essence of humility and this is the kind of humility which we see in the Mother of God…”

Winston Churchill was once asked, “Doesn’t it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the hall is packed to overflowing?” “It’s quite flattering,” replied Sir Winston. “But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big!”

God wisely designed the human body so that we can neither pat our own backs nor kick ourselves too easily.

Sadhu Sundar Singh was a very famous Indian Hindu who converted to Christianity. After a tour in Europe where he was acclaimed for his wisdom and wit, friends asked him whether this entire accolade does not do him any harm. His answer was beautiful “No, he said. The donkey went into Jerusalem, and they put garments on the ground before him. He was not proud. He knew it was not done to honor him, but for Jesus, who was sitting on his back. When people honor me, I know it is not me, but the Lord, who does the job.” We are just the donkey carrying Jesus. Remember that!

Be humble or you’ll stumble!


(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.