The Hard Thing About Humility

Mutter Teresa, lachend, Dezember 1985

Since the official date of Mother Teresa’s canonization has been announced, I want to look into her insights on humility today.

Practicing humility is not an easy feat. It’s one thing to imagine the concept of humility, but actually living it out is hard.

“These are the few ways we can practice humility:

To speak as little as possible of one’s self.”

In this social media-saturated world, we always love to talk about ourselves. It can be as vague as a passive-aggressive Facebook status or as blatant as a duckface selfie. I’m not immune to this given that part of my job involves promoting myself. It’s one thing to promote one’s work out of necessity. We all have to make a living somehow. But when your conversations consist of constant whining or bragging about your accomplishments, you have little room in your heart for anything else.

Since we’re close to Holy Week, if you’re gonna spend time on social media, I hope that you can contribute more positive things to your feed instead of another selfie.

 

“To mind one’s own business.”

When we’re not talking about ourselves, America’s actual favorite pastime is gossip. It’s basically the only reason why anyone knows who Kim Kardashian is. I love learning the latest news in regards to my favorite actors and singers, but I try my best to limit things. I think this also applies to people who get too involved in political debates and office gossip.

Pope Francis had some harsh words to say about gossiping. His words are harsh and blunt, I know. But try going a day without gossiping and see what a difference it can make in your life.

 

“Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.”

How often do we try to micromanage other people’s lives? How often do we act like we’re somebody’s mother in the worst way possible through constant nagging and unsolicited advice? Unless we are given actual positions of authority, intervening in other people’s lives is usually best reserved for emergency situations.

It’s okay to give advice if you are asked and if you feel like you can give a sound answer. But what’s more important is to listen intently. You’d be surprised at how things can change when you actually listen to others.

 

“To avoid curiosity.”

This one is especially hard for me. I was given insatiable curiosity from the time I learned how to read. I always want to know the story behind something. But I understand why curiosity can be a bad thing. Not all information out there is worth knowing about. There are things people do behind closed doors that I’d rather be blissfully unaware of. Insatiable curiosity can open up the door to temptation.

Avoiding curiosity doesn’t mean to close yourself off from current events, though. It just means knowing that there are limits to what you already know and trying not to overload yourself with too much information. The main villain in Avengers: Age of Ultron became arrogant because of all the knowledge he gained and saw destroying the world as the best way to maintain order. Vision stood as a contrast to Ultron because he’s aware of his own limits.

 

“To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.”

As a writer, it was really hard for me to accept criticism, even of the constructive kind. Writing this blog has helped to an extent, but I’m still learning how to take the feedback I get from comments and other writers. I really appreciate my local writing group because we’ve worked out a way to give feedback that mixes positive remarks with things that we all need to improve on.

 

“To pass over the mistakes of others.”

It’s not easy to overlook people’s little faults. It’s also not easy to look at the latest Buzzfeed article and wonder “where the hell do they find these people?”

This does not mean to excuse abusive behavior or just let bad things slide. I choose to interpret this idea as choosing what to get angry about. We can’t fix every little flaw in every person we see.

I totally get that “Judge not” gets taken out of context a lot. But the best way to actually practice the act of admonishing others while still being humble is to meet people where they are and treat them as friends, not as projects.

 

“To accept insults and injuries.”

Scroll around the internet long enough and you’ll probably find something insulting the Catholic Church. It’s even worse when people who claim to be Catholic insult other Catholics and injure others with their words or actions. Mother Teresa dealt with her own share of insults and injuries, but she never took them lying down. She always responded with a firm voice and a bit of sass for good measure. If you don’t believe me, there’s a story about her in Catholicism in which she tries getting some food for a poor child only to be met with a baker spitting in her face. She responded with “Thanks for the nice gift, now how about something for the child?”

 

“To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.”

Dear Aaron Burr should’ve learned a bit about dealing with always coming short of Hamilton’s success. Hamilton himself was almost lost to history, forgotten because of what the other Founding Fathers said about him. I also dealt with my share of being overlooked. But the thing is that we can’t take neglect personally. When one door closes, another opportunity comes around soon enough.

Whenever I serve on retreat, I go there knowing that I probably won’t be acknowledged for the work that I’ve done. But I see the results of my generosity whenever the retreaters talk about how much fun they had at the end. It’s enough for me to know that I helped contribute to their happiness.

 

“To be kind and gentle even under provocation.”

It’s really hard to maintain a kind attitude when people are acting nasty. I have no idea how these riots at Trump’s rallies happen and yet you’d think that a presidential candidate would discourage that kind of behavior. But if I could say something to Trump supporters, it would be this: If you really want to make America great again, try practicing kindness and actual generosity to those you don’t like.

 

“Never to stand on one’s dignity.”

There’s a line from a song in Rent that goes “Will I lose my dignity?” It’s part of a round that asks about the uncertainties of life. In a musical where the majority of characters suffer from AIDS, that question is a legitimate one. And yet, in the musical, we see all the characters lose their dignity in some way. In spite of that, the seven friends are able to find happiness. It just took them a long time to get there.

 

“To choose always the hardest.”

It’s hard to be humble. It’s hard to do all the things that Mother Teresa has listed here. But as my favorite TV show has said “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live.”

I hope that you take the time to reflect on the idea of humility and that you can practice humility in your lives.

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