A wealthy and successful CEO took his wife for a Sunday afternoon drive near the little country town where she grew up. Noticing that the gas tank was nearly empty, he pulled in to the little country gas station. While the tank was filling, he went to the rest room. On his way back to the car, he noticed that his wife was talking and laughing with the gas station attendant. When they drove away, he asked his wife about it. She told him that the attendant had been her boyfriend when she was in high school. He said with pride, “Weren’t you lucky that I came along? If you had married him, you'd be the wife of a gas station attendant instead of the wife of a chief executive officer.” “ No, my dear," she said, "if I hadn’t met you and married him, he'd be the chief executive officer and you'd be the gas station attendant."
Jesus taught us time and again lessons on humility and warnings about pride. Pride is described as "the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the one who has it.” It works its way into our souls and takes away goodness that is inherent in us. Pride destroyed the paradise that was Eden.
Some people find it hard to be humble because everything they do, they think, is awesomely good. There are also some people who likes looking and pointing at themselves all the time, perhaps because they find more comfort in their selfish selves. And there are also some people whose egos are so big that their pride reeks with shameless disgrace.
Pride destroys relationships. It builds up by tearing others down. In his book, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes, “If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?"
God does not like us to be proud, because there is no reason for us to be one. Jesus showed us how to be humble and has continually taught us about being humble. The lives of all our saints have humbling images and stories of emptying themselves—possessions, power, ego--before God. They know that God cannot work on us if we are proud.
Once we think that we can do things without the help of a higher being, then we come to believe that we are gods ourselves, that we deserve a place of honor. Once a person thinks that he does not need the help of God, then he starts believing that God’s rules and commandments can be set aside. But, once a person accepts that God is in charge, then he goes behind God, who is always the Good Shepherd leading the way, for nobody can follow from the front.
Pride is the guilty parent of many sins and vices while humility is the mother of all virtues. Being humble is an elusive gift. Once you think you are humble, then you have lost it. I heard from a priest friend joke that of all his spiritual gifts and talents, his humility is the one he was most proud of.
Being humble is admitting first what we are in a limited context of time and space. Humility means accepting who we are in the presence of a loving God. In the context of time and space, what are we but fellow travelers in this journey of life? And in the presence of a loving God, who are we but persons he ever loved from the moment we were born?
If we only realize that we are those poor, crippled, lame and blind persons he is continually inviting, then we should also be helping and sharing with these persons Jesus mentioned, with no conditions imposed. Humility means spending time with those we find hard to live with, spending some time this week with those we probably like the least.
Humility is knowing our strengths, our weaknesses, and our place in the banquet of life. It is also acknowledging our status before God. We are lucky and blessed, because He has opened himself for us, with unconditional love and humility.
1 September 2013