The words jumped out at me as if in all caps: PROFOUND HUMILITY. I laughed. Okay then, God, I accept this challenge.
According to Merriam-Webster, here’s the definition of the two words separately:
: having or showing great knowledge or understanding
: difficult to understand : requiring deep thought or wisdom
: very strongly felt
: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble
These definitions set me up as a prime example of profound humility. Yes, I just knew this topic was for me. Take my Facebook post from last week, as an example:
My disclaimer about that little ranty rant is, if you remember, my family and I are currently squished into my Mom and Dad’s house while we find a new place to live, and destructo child #2 got into a box of stashed away markers and the rest of his brothers partook, and it was not pretty. In my frustration over cleaning up the mess on my dear parent’s couch and clean tablecloth, I gritted my teeth and thought “I swear if ANYONE ever gives my children markers…” and then I impulsively wrote that little ditty.
The thing about this seemingly harmless, typical young mom stream of consciousness is that by turning it into a public service announcement, I’m lacking consideration for anyone who’s ever bought or might buy my children a gift. I’ve perhaps now made a future gift giver insecure about what he or she might want to give my children because Ice Queen Carolyn’s going to scowl and post a public hatement about it on Facebook.
I’ve made it clear I can complain. If that’s not clear enough, hi, I have a blog. Go take a stroll through my older posts.
Did I mean it that way when I unthinkingly tapped “Post”?
No, of course not.
But that’s where humility resides: in thinking about someone other than myself, my inconveniences, my pains, and my frustrations.
Understanding this can become a little confusing at times. It’s important to note there’s a difference between humility as a virtue, and being humiliated. We can’t control when someone or some event makes us feel humiliated (even though that is also a great opportunity to seek God), but we can voluntarily take on a humble demeanor in those situations, and in everything else in order to love God and love our neighbor.
I should have exercised the virtue of humility in my case by keeping my mouth shut, my fingers scrubbing the marker stains in a physical form of prayer, and never letting anyone know about my little frustration. But where’s the feel-good in that?
In our age, big mouths and Yoncé queens are celebrated to the mantra “be unapologetically you.” With social media providing an immediate audience for nods and applauds of approval, it feels pretty good to get stuff like that off my chest, and then it’s easy to toss in “sorry I’m not sorry.” Practicing a little humility is frequently met with rejection because our society tells us that to be humble it must require a suppression of who we are:
“I gotta say what I feel! That’s just how I am! I’m not gonna be fake!”
But to obnoxiously boast my loathing for the gift of markers really isn’t me being “just who I am.”
To shut my mouth and consider that I don’t want to hurt a beloved friend or family member does not mean I’m being fake. Practicing humility calls us to swallow our moments of anger or frustration or desire in order that we may more deeply consider a grander picture; in order that we give Love a moment to enter the scene. Capital L.
To strive for the virtue of humility, we begin by following what Jesus taught us: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and then secondly, love your neighbor as yourself (Mk 12:30-31). Each person we meet in every day life is not merely an equal, but a masterpiece.
Pope Francis spoke earlier this year in England and Wales during their celebrated Day for Life, saying,
“Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect”.
That’s right. I know what you’re thinking: The People of Walmart? Masterpieces.
Mary was profoundly humble because she fully understood that life is a masterpiece– she had to know it in order for God to have specifically chosen her, and only her, to bring His only begotten Son into the world.
When she and St. Joseph arrived at the inn the night that Christ was born, she was probably in labor but she didn’t demand a room because she was the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world. She didn’t holler to speak to the Inn Keeper’s –what, wife? Manager? She didn’t send Joseph to throw out some lowly “nobody” who wasn’t about to birth Jesus the Christ. Knowing that the people occupying the taken rooms along with the Inn Keeper were all as loved and as wonderfully and fearfully made as she, Mary and St. Joseph took a humble place, a stable (or a cave, if you want to get nit picky about it), and she bore the King regardless.
If the mother of our Lord allowed her frustration over not finding a place to give birth to take a back seat, I have a lot of work to do because I just pitched a fit over a 10 pack of mini markers and let the world know it.
Why would I want to practice the virtue of profound humility?
For one, without it we cannot open ourselves to receive the grace –which only God can give us– to be better, holier people. Don’t we want to be better?
How to practice the virtue of Profound Humility:
Humility is about serving others and thinking of them before myself. However, it is in the spirit of humility -instead of in selfishness- of course, that I must think about myself. I begin by examining my own actions, words, and thoughts.
What is my inner dialogue? Are my thoughts angry? Are they jealous? Are they covetous? Are they constantly in pursuit of material comforts? Walk down Ten Commandment Avenue every night before you go to bed, without justifying those thoughts or actions. Did I think it? Yes. Did I do/say it? Yes. Who could that have hurt?
God, show me how to be better next time.
If you’ve never done this before, you’ll quickly gain a better self awareness.
Looking inward is humbling indeed, and at times painful.
Yet we don’t remain pained and hopeless about our failings. We bring our struggles to God like a child brings his father a broken toy:
“Dad, can you fix it?”
And many times, like a teaching father he is, he shows his son or daughter how to fix it themselves, but with his guidance.
If we don’t take stock in our own actions, words and thoughts, we can never grow in humility. Striving toward this virtue enables us to love God and to love our neighbors more deeply. We remember that we are each beautiful masterpieces of God’s creation. We think before we do and before we speak, and when we fail –because we will– we look to our Holy Mother who has always pointed us to Jesus and said “do whatever He tells you.”
And He has told us.
This post is part of a series on the Ten Virtues of Mary, hosted by To the Heights and running every Tuesday until the middle of December. So if you need some help in the virtue department, here’s a great place to start ;)
October 7 – An Introduction to the Ten Virtues of Mary – Olivia of To the Heights
October 14 – Lively Faith – Molly of Molly Makes Do
October 21 – Blind Obedience – Kendra of Catholic All Year
October 28 – Constant Mental Prayer – Jenna of Call Her Happy
November 4 – Heroic Patience – Kelly of This Ain’t the Lyceum
November 11 – Profound Humility – Carolyn of Svellerella
November 18 – Angelic Sweetness – Regina of Good One God
November 25 – Divine Wisdom – Britt of The Fisk Files
December 2 – Universal Mortification – Abbey of Surviving Our Blessings
December 9 – Divine Purity – Gina of Someday Saints
December 16 – Ardent Charity – Christy of Fountains of Home
December 17 – Massive GIVEAWAY at To the Heights – Just in time for Christmas