A few months ago, I stumbled upon St. Josemaria’s writings on humility, or the lack thereof. St. Josemaria was once a complete unknown to me, but there are a couple of beautiful novenas to him that brought a lot of peace, guidance and comfort to my family and since then I’ve been trying to learn more about him.
“Allow me to remind you that among other evident signs of a lack of humility are:
- Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say
- Always wanting to get your own way
- Arguing when you are not right or — when you are — insisting stubbornly or with bad manners
- Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so
- Despising the point of view of others
- Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan
- Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honour or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own
- Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation
- Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you
- Making excuses when rebuked
- Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you
- Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you
- Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you
- Refusing to carry out menial tasks
- Seeking or wanting to be singled out
- Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige…
- Being ashamed of not having certain possessions…”
Did you read his signs? Read them again. Really, scroll back up and reread that list. Let those sink in.
The first time I read that list I was in tears. This isn’t humility. Humility is saying thank you and not accepting compliments and always deferring to the works of others. I do that all the time. I’m humble. Surely all these things are just normal parts of being human.
But then I took a good hard look at where these “signs of a lack of humilty” showed up most in my life.
At first I was defensive. What if my way really is better than his? What if I really do put more effort in? Clean more, cook more, get up with our toddler more, do more? That’s a fact, that’s not a sign I’m lacking humility!
As any good millennial is wont to do, I googled what the Bible/Jesus/Church had to say about humility.
And seriously, I felt like the ground shifted below me. I felt my hardened heart (hardened unbeknownst to me) start to crack. I felt like sobbing and laughing and sitting down to write an action plan of how to be a better wife.
Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Ephesians 4:1-3 “ I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
These are just a small sampling of all the verses and lessons you can find in the Bible focused around our call to true humility. And it got me thinking, did Jesus give us the answer to all life’s problems through his teachings on humility? Through his example of humility? I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I am so inspired by the potential happiness there is to be found by becoming truly humble.
There’s a quote of C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity that I stumbled upon that really helped put this into perspective for me.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”
Instead of focusing on all the sacrifices I’m making in our family life, all the late nights, joint showers with my toddler, wearing food to work and constantly being touched, all the dishes that I’ve washed, clothes I’ve folded, counters I’ve wiped, all that stuff I’ve done is nothing compared to what He has done.
And to get to the ultimate end-game, to get my husband, my children, my family and myself to Heaven, my goal should be to become as Christ-like as possible. Is there any possible way for that to happen if I am not humbling myself before God, before my family, before my husband?
Is that possible while I’m still keeping a tally of how many diapers I’ve changed, how many meals I’ve made, how many on-the-clock hours I’ve spent?
Think for a minute about the humble story of Jesus. When God became flesh, He could have chosen a high-born family, a lady of royal status – yet instead he chose a lowly girl to become the mother of Christ, to carry within her womb the immaculately-conceived Christ-child. Humility from the very start. He was born in a stable, raised by a carpenter. Every twist and turn in His life was touched by humility; He was showing us through example from the very beginning.
The King of Kings spent his entire human life showing us the way to Him was through humility, consistently caring more for others than for ourselves.
Spend some time reflecting on Philippians 2 and you will see even more clearly how Jesus calls us to be humble, to live our lives with the benefit of others at heart, instead of the benefit of ourselves.
Humility leads us to rely on Christ instead of ourselves. It takes us outside of our own little world and leads us to focus on those around us.
This is key to a successful marriage.
Think of a regular week for your family. How often do you find yourself internally complaining about the list of things you’ve done while your husband was outside playing with the kids? Or counting the minutes of solo-parenting while he had a break and comparing it to the shortage of breaks you had.
How many times a day do you compare your list of accomplishments to his and find him come up short? How often do you let that fill you with anger and frustration? How often do you let that carry over longer than a minute of self-pity?
I know in my marriage, all that leads to is inflaming my resentment toward my husband, my feeling of overwhelm as a mom, my short-fuse with my family. I feel worse all-around when I start up that comparison.
I have to try harder to stop counting each little thing I do as just another thing my husband owes me.
I have to remember that all I accomplish is by the grace of God and should be focused on getting my family to Heaven, not on holding it over my husband’s head.
Instead of washing the dishes twice to guilt my husband into taking V for a walk so I can solo-shower, I need to learn to voice my wants and needs and simply tell him I need to shower and I’d like to do it without the constant drip of soap in my eyes that comes from looking down at the toddler accompanying me.
Counting every chore, every night waking, every minute of motherly sacrifice only serves to make me resent motherhood and feel superior in my sacrifice.
When you are not humble you forget everything the Lord has done for you and start thinking you did this on your own.
St. Josemaria, pray for us!
Here are some great perspectives on humility I’ve enjoyed:
- Pride has no place in your home – Unveiled Wife
- The Happy Priest on the Virtue of Humility – Catholic Online
- Recognizing humility and compassion in your spouse helps predict marital bliss – Phys.org
- Marriage Requires Humility – Family Life
- Humility and Self-forgetfulness – Focus on the Family (self-forgetfulness is such a blessing!!!)
- A Wife of Humility – Jenni Mullinix
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