O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance,
Admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice,
Accepts rebuke. Help us always to praise rather than to criticize,
To sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy,
And to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.
- William Barclay
My wife Karen and I are part of a ministry called Teams Of Our Lady, or TOOLS for short. TOOLS is described on their website as "an international lay movement in the Catholic Church, designed to enrich marriage spirituality and make good marriages better. Teams provide a proven method of increasing and improving prayer life, which will help couples grow closer to God and each other. At the same time, their family will reap the benefits as well." It has been a true blessing in our marriage.
One of the things we are asked to do in TOOLS is develop and try to live out a 'Rule of Life' - a private, individual endeavor focused on moving one from the person they are to the person they want to be. My Rule of Life for the past couple of years has been to grow in Humility (it feels kinda strange to write this, cause I'm not sure that revealing this is a very humble action - but I feel the Spirit moving me in this direction, so I'm following)
I have found Humility to be a difficult target to hit. How does one grow in Humility? Well, my mind goes to the question of how did I become adept and grow at any of the skills that I have honed in my life? The answer to that is simple - by learning and then building proficiency in what I have learned through practice. Growth is slow at first, but as experience and practice increases, real skill is developed.
So, learning - there are many sources of information on humility, but I have found the Saints and how they chose to live their lives as some of the best schools providing instruction on what it means to be humble. And from my studies of various Saints, I think the prayer above does an extraordinarily good job of embodying their hearts when it comes to living out humility.
But of course, I am no Saint - and therein lies the rub...
So how do I grow in Humility? Maybe by recalling often the prayer above, and practicing the actions called out in it - realizing my ignorance (ouch), admitting my mistakes (oooh), recognizing my need (yuck), accepting rebuke (noooo). Basically, by experiencing humiliation - and isn't that a word we all want to embrace!
The key is to not be overwhelmed by that word. I would venture to say that if you look, you can find small, almost imperceptible ways to manifest humility in your everyday life. Let these small actions be your first practice field, where your initial exposure to humility can grow to habitual practice. Once this seed is planted and has sprouted, God will lead you to ways to grow and mature that sapling.
Below I provide a few ideas that may help you feel a little humility. Some may speak to your sense of humility, some may not. My prayer is that you will find a few actions you can take daily to light or re-ignite the humble attitude we all need to be the children of the Almighty God.
- If you enjoy a well manicured lawn, let your grass grow for a few weeks without mowing
- Say a prayer of thanksgiving before a meal in a crowded restaurant with your buddies. Extra points if you say your prayer out loud
- If you enjoy a well put together outfit, wear mismatched clothes to work one day
- When you run across a person driving slowly, get behind them and do not pass
- The next time your spouse says something trivial that you know is wrong, do not correct them
- Put a religious article on your desk at work, or hang your favorite prayer on the wall of your office/cubical
- The next time you know you have hurt your spouses feelings, admit your part of the situation and ask for forgiveness
I'd love to hear your ideas on small things that can help build humility - please share them in the comments!