Thursday, January 17, 2013

New Year, New Look at Humility

Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

Hello Ladies,

Today I'm going to be talking about a controversial and therefore misunderstood subject: humility. What is humility exactly? The hallowed Oxford English Dictionary defines it thusly:

Definition of humility
[mass noun]
the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance:
he needs the humility to accept that their way may be better

Middle English: from Old French humilite, from Latin humilitas, from humilis (see humble)

But there is much more to the word. Modern society views humility as a dangerous virtue for women. It is often used synonymously with weak, powerless, silent, and undervalued.

What does this mean for us Marian moms who, like Christ's mother, are called to be humble?

We should have no fear of becoming weak, powerless, silenced or undervalued. We need not try to change who we are as if ashamed of having a strong character or any other gift God has bestowed upon us. There is no need to redefine humility. We just need to put it in the proper context.

We need humility to accept that God's way is better.

It is a disturbing truth that God calls all of us to be humble. After all, what are we compared to Him in His glory?  But let's put it in a different perspective. Blessed Mother Teresa put it this way:

I don't claim anything of the work. It's his work. I'm like a little pencil in his hand. That's all. He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.

       Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)

Could anybody call Mother Teresa weak? Impotent? Silent and without value?
She transcended religious, cultural, national and political spheres to humbly do God's will. What is the difference? How could she affect such change?

Because she was humble before God.

I have heard from a few sources that she was hell on wheels before man. She would have to be in order to affect such change in the world.

Now it's hard to have the humility of a saint. That is why we must practice. But where to begin?

Be not afraid to tell Jesus that you love Him; even though it be without feeling, this is the way to oblige Him to help you, and carry you like a little child too feeble to walk.
     St. Therese of Lisieux

I love the above quote for several reasons. What mother does not understand the imagery of carrying a child? How many times do we feel our own need to be carried? How many times do we tell those around us that we love them? How many times do we ourselves need to be told? I also love the idea of God taking direct action in our lives. It has been said that young children love not the the people who cater to their desires but those to take care of their needs.

We are God's children. He takes care of our needs.

Now isn't that a relief? God loves me. He takes care of my needs.

Is it too much for me to give up my grudge against my neighbor so that I can focus on what is in front of me? Is it more important for me to talk on the phone with a friend or take care of my crying child? Sometimes we need to let the child cry and talk to a friend for our own sanity. But what if I'm just gossiping? Oops. What if I'm incorrect in my assumptions and I'm spreading false information (while my child is crying)? Double oops. You see the direction this is taking.

If you're at a loss where to begin try the following:

Be quiet. Hang up the phone. Turn off the t.v. and music. God's voice is so great that He needs to whisper.

Thank God for all of your blessings.

Ask God for what you need. Save the wants for later.

If you need to get work done - which face it, you probably do, do what is in front of you with great love.

Pray while you work. If you are cooking then thank God for the food. If you are washing dishes then thank God for the food, dishes, water, soap, and for those who shared your meal with you. etc.

If there is a person or situation that makes you really angry, then pray for that person or situation. (I do this a lot!)

If you have time to get away - Go to mass.

Go to Eucharistic adoration.

Read the bible.

Right now I'm just talking about the small stuff. But our lives are connected by moments. if we do not practice allowing God into the moment then we will be unable to let God in when it really matters. And it only really matters right now.

Hopefully at this point you realize that being humble isn't about labeling your thoughts as inadequate and suppressing them. It's about realizing that your thoughts are so important that they shape your reality and asking God to guide you to a reality far greater and more wonderful than you could possibly imagine.

And if you think that your work as a mother isn't important just think what life would be like if you didn't take care of the basic needs of the household. Ask any child who was neglected or who grew up in sloth or was denied love. Remember that we are entrusted with souls of God's own making, vulnerable and full of potential, just as Jesus was. Just as we are.

Lately I have had real cause to cling to humility. I have mentioned in an earlier post that I have been diagnosed with postpartum depression. It's getting better but you can imagine how my reality has been affected by this illness. I know that perception of events is skewed. Now that I am aware of the situation it is much easier to take a step back and stop taking things so personally. It is a huge relief and has helped the healing tremendously. No, it's not all about me. No, I don't have to fix it. No, I don't have to prove anything. And no, it's not all my fault. Once I admit that things are better than I perceive them to be... well, imagine the liberation from anxiety.

My newborn daughter is now at the stage when she fights sleep because being awake is much more interesting. She's miserable being awake. Sometimes it doesn't matter what I do to settle her down. There is no convincing her that she will be so much happier after a good rest. I often feel that my relationship with God is like this. He knows what I need. He is willing to care for my needs. But my way is so much more interesting, even if it makes me miserable.

It is only in the quiet where I find rest. It is only with God in my heart that I find peace. It is only with God by my side that I can find the strength to do the small tasks in front of my with great love instead of crying on the floor of my closet because I am overwhelmed. It is only by asking God to heal me that I am overcoming my illness. It is only by listening to God that I gain the wisdom to care for myself. All of this because one day I entertained the idea that God's way may be better than mine.

I do not claim to be better than anyone. I do not pretend that I have all the answers. But I do know that motherhood is hard and we need to support one another. I know that some moms look at me as if I have it all together. I don't. Obviously. But, well, how can you go wrong by trusting God?

May God Be with You!


Imagine my surprise to find out that some of my most consistent readers are women who aren't mothers or even men (who are obviously not mothers, either). Welcome! I'm glad to know that some of my, could I call it wisdom?, has a broad, practical appeal. Please forgive me if I continue to cater this blog to mothers of young children. Trying to broaden the spectrum would probably make my head explode. But feel free to add your comments. We learn from one another.