We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:23-25
The Joy of Humility
Stephen asked me some good questions on my Vanity VS Pride post. More than anything it made me want to look over all my analyses of pride and synthesize it, bring it together. That’s what I’ve tried to do in this post. I’m sure I still have a lot to do on this topic, but now I have hope.
Pride before the fall
Well, pride goes before the fall. Solving problems is all well and good, but if you push too hard, something breaks. That’s humiliating. (Not the same as humility, but it can help if you take it well.)
I’m still collecting the pieces. But I’m pretty happy at how they’re coming together.
Sadness of pride
I knew pride was a problem for me. I didn’t understand it, but I suffered it. I was prey to self-pity, because I set up for myself an absurd standard. I placed my self-worth in my own greatness, and since I was always trying to be greater, there was no ceiling. According to my own standard, I had no worth, because I should always be better.
More than that, I found that nothing could satisfy my sadness. In those times, I was lonely. In this sadness of pride, my “high” standards required me to refuse the love of others. Pride judges love according to its own standards. If I was worthless in my own eyes, anyone who saw worth in me was wrong. So of course their love couldn’t comfort me.
Poor little confused me! Stubborn against vulnerability. Hard of heart!
Hope for humility
This sadness, however, always prompts me to look deeper and keep an ear open for hints. The first hint was a priest, who said that gratitude is the first step away from pride, because it is a step towards humility. To be grateful is to remember that everything you have has been given to you, in some way or another.
Of course, it’s not enough to want to be grateful. There was another key piece I was missing. Trust. Pride’s underlying assumption is that our standards are “higher” than anyone else’s, even God’s. Trust is a key to humility.
At the beginning of Fr. Gaitley’s book 33 Days to Merciful Love, he talked about how Mary can help us learn to trust God. God can seem far away, terrifying, or impossible to know. But Mary is so close. She is always reaching out for us with the gentleness of a mother. All we have to do is let her.
At that point, I realized that I did have a hard time trusting God. And I’d never had a relationship with Mary. (As a Catholic, I was quite ashamed to admit it.) I thought of her as someone great, like an aunt I admired a lot. I would see her at parties and try not to meet her eye. We just didn’t have much in common. Best not to discuss it.
When I discovered the problem of pride, I started praying to Mary, that we could find a way to know each other. That she could help me trust more. I’m sure she’s been guiding me the whole time. But only recently have I come to see her own secret: that Satan himself fears her humility. That’s not power to scoff at!
The joy of humility
Satan’s problem was judging God. He fancied that he had a “higher” standard than God Himself. Oh, dear. That sounded familiar.
I needed to desire to be like a child. A child who accepts all the gifts and all the love that God brings to her. He was not stingy in His offer, but I turned up my nose.
Since I saw the silliness of it, I have become smaller. Now, I look for His love, where before I ignored it. I see His gentleness. I see His friendship. I see His loving sacrifice. I want to be His beloved. I want to be humble enough to love His humility, even as it awes me.
Every day, I have thanked God for what He has shown me. I pray that He will continue to help me grow in smallness, to replace my hard heart with a heart of flesh. Because that is true blessedness.