I have been thinking about the state of relationships in our community both our local communities and our larger communities. This has been in response especially to what is happening in politics in Canada as it seems to be importing many of the divisions and antagonism which is permeating politics in our neighbours to the south. This can be extended to the devastating conflict between Israel and Hamas.
I believe that what is desperately needed in all these relationships is humility. I recall once reading a definition of humility as being a state in which one sees clearly. This surprized me when I first read it but on reflection, I came to understand what was being said is that if you see yourself clearly you will understand where you belong in relation to other people and the world that God has created. If you see yourself and others clearly, you will realize that the proper response is humility. This is regardless of what God-given gifts you possess or what you have accomplished in life.
In reflecting on humility, I checked into what has been said about it in one of my go-to sources, the daily reflection by the Society of St. John the Evangelist (SSJE) which is entitled, Brother, Give Me a Word. I found that there were a number of daily offerings about humility. I want to share a few of them with you to give you a flavour of the brothers’ thoughts on this subject. The first is in line with that quote that I referred to:
Humility is not about self-abasement. Rather, it is about living into the truth of who we are, recognizing both our gifts and our shortcomings, our abilities and our limitations, our righteousness and our sinfulness. Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
Here are a couple of other of the brothers’ thoughts on the subject:
Making a right estimate of ourselves involves appreciating the natural gifts that have been given to us by God, but also realizing that we are beneficiaries of God’s undeserved, redeeming love. The humble person knows he cannot exalt himself, because all that he has and all that he is proceeds solely from God’s generous love. Br. David Vryhof, SSJE
One of the easiest things in the world is to be clearsighted when it comes to others, and to know exactly what another needs to do to address their shortcomings. It is not so easy to address, or even admit, our own shortcomings. Real humility is about knowing ourselves as God knows us: imperfect creatures, whom God loves. Knowing ourselves loved by God means first recognizing that we are loveable. To do that, we need to be clear sighted, not about the other person, but about ourselves. -Br. James Koester SSJE
To be humble is a challenge for different reasons especially because of our egos. The ego demands that we are in charge of all that we do and all that we are in relation to others. The ego compares itself to others and judges our worth on that basis. This means that we are put in situations where we judge the outcome on the basis of whether we believe we have won or lost and consequently whether we are better or worse than the other and whether we are worthy of being loved. There are, of course, other factors such as anger and hate which will drive our response to situations and events. In the worst situation we will want to humiliate the one we see as our foe.
I will close with one more quote form my friends at SSJE on what is required to be in community with others. It does not refer to humility but if we are humble we will be thankful for what we have been given in life by others and especially by God:
We depend on one another for support. As we Brothers know well, community is a fragile organism that can only survive where thankfulness and reconciliation are allowed to thrive. Br. James Koester, SSJE
May we be blessed with the gift of humility on our journey.