Thursday, June 16, 2016

On humility

Lately, the news has been full of opportunities for us, as a society, to see a lack of humility in action. 

This American presidential campaign has been rife with finger-pointing, blaming, accusation, fear-mongering, comparison, biting sarcasm...all the things that mirror our lack of humility as a society of human beings.

The Orlando attack was turned into an "I told you so" moment by a political candidate, and also became a debate on guns and Islam rather than a united push to show compassion and love to a people group that must be feeling particularly unloved and fearful at the moment.

So many fingers were pointed at the parents who let their child slip into a gorilla enclosure, or who absentmindedly left their child in a hot car or had to watch the horror of their baby being snatched up by an alligator. 

The news is full of examples of our lack of humility. We are quick to judge and say what we think and point away from ourselves. We are quick to compare, pretending as though we could never make such mistakes or allow ourselves or our loved ones to be victims. We are quick to react, slow to respond. We like to think that our political or moral or spiritual views and how loudly we can voice them somehow makes us right.

The minute we start to point fingers and ardently take what we think is the moral high ground at the expense of our souls and our compassion, it becomes clear that we have lost what it means to be humble and we are massively out of touch with our humanity. We become wrong.

Humans make mistakes. Humans are victims. Humans are perpetrators. Humans start wars. Humans are self-promoters. Humans are greedy and bitter and judgmental and opportunistic. Humans are imperfect. Humans make horrible decisions. Humans are unforgiving and brash. Humans are self-righteous.

But each of us, in our humanity, is loved more than we can imagine. Every victim in Orlando was (and is) loved. Every parent who makes a grave mistake and watches their lives change before their eyes, is loved. Each of our current political candidates (and their supporters) are loved. The people who commit acts of terrorism, though it seems hard to believe, are loved. We are all loved.

What we do with that love, despite our desire to react and spit blame, and how we give out that love is what proves whether we are humble or not. We can channel our opinions and anger away from a need to be right to a desire to be humble.

Humility is serving, not dominating. Humility is lifting others up, not tearing them down. Humility is allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Humility is washing the feet of the weary and down-trodden and pulling them to their feet, when our darkest desire might be to push them further down. Humility is being quick to listen and slow to speak. Humility is realizing we are fully accepted and loved as we are, despite the fact that we are all wholly undeserving. Humility is allowing ourselves to be transparent, so that Love can shine through. 

When Jesus knelt to wash the dirty feet of his disciples, He was showing them that they were not alone in their struggle. That He understood what it is like to be lower, and to serve by getting his hands dirty. So when we lower ourselves to forgive or to let go of anger or to serve or just to give love instead of our opinions, we show humility. Humility is the ultimate strength. It's making the choice to not have to be right or heard. It's making the choice to turn our self-righteousness over to God's love.

If we are truly humble, that means we truly realize that we cannot pick and choose on whom we allow God's light to shine. We are meant to be glass--clear, transparent, imperfect. By letting light shine through us, even in our imperfect state, we are allowing God to take over. Those imperfections in our glass show a pattern of lessons learned, most likely in difficult circumstances, and each of our patterns is unique and tells a story. Letting other people see those cracks and flaws and wounds and seeing the light shining through us anyway is what it's all about. The purpose of humility is allowing our stories to help others realize that they are not alone in their struggle, that they are known and can be used profoundly by God--the Lover. Humility is being vulnerable.

Today, I read something on social media that truly warmed my heart. I saw a man in my friends list on Facebook who made a post about how he had finally forgiven his father for leaving and not being there for him. He released his father from the anger he'd held against him for many years. 

That took guts, but it also took humility. First, he admitted to feeling angry and bitter, but then he extended forgiveness and love to someone whom he knows doesn't deserve it. When he did that, he released himself from the hold that bitterness had had on him this whole time. This man has every right to be full of anger toward his father, as most of us would in that situation. But he made a conscious choice to extend forgiveness and to not allow himself to be ruled any longer by the effect of the feelings he'd held against his father. I so admired that humble attitude, and it made me a little embarrassed at my lack.

I am still learning humility, I'll admit it. I can be the biggest hypocrite. I'm often reactive rather than responsive. I like being right a little too much. I like to pounce on what I see as injustice and argue my opinions about causes and what can be done, rather than quietly turning my focus upon those who are right in the thick of the experience and reverently reaching to help them. I'm SO in touch with my humanity lately, and it saddens me.

But I have hope that God is teaching me, and that I'll eventually learn the strength that lies in lowering myself and humbling the parts of myself that don't want to be humbled. Falling off a high horse is painful. I only know because I've experienced it more times than I can count. 

We are all in this race together, and while we each will cross the tape alone, the support and love of our fellow runners is what points us to the grand finish, especially when--through them--we are able to see the Love that is waiting for us on the other side. Love is vulnerable.

So please, let's all try to be above the fray. No finger-pointing. No noisy debates that don't change anyone's minds anyway. No more needing to be right. Be the transparent glass, flaws and all. 

Shine on, lovelies.