The Grace of Humility: Chapter 5 {Grace of Yes Book Club}

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Welcome to the Grace of Yes Book Club! We’re reading Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living.

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“Saying yes to a book definitely changed things. Mostly, it brought great blessings, but it also brought new threats to my humility.”

Writing about the grace of humility has not been easy for me. The truth? This is my fourth attempt. I told my husband last night, “I think I am having such a hard time reflecting on humility because I am so not humble.”

Chapter 5, in my opinion, is the chapter of all chapters. It is the one that spoke directly to me. It is the one that struck a chord. It is the one that I read and thought, “This was written for me.” It is the one that I get to write about, and good grief, I don’t feel worthy. My words cannot do it justice. But I am going to try…for the fourth time…I will try.

Last year, I was introduced to the Litany of Humility, and was dared to pray it. Why dared? Because it is awful! It had me praying to lose the desire for all of the very things I do desire! Free me Lord from the desire to be noticed…to be praised…to be loved…to be set aside while others are recognized. I closed my prayer book hard, pushed it away, and thought, “Seriously? What kind of sick prayer is this?”

I have struggled with this. As a woman who loves to write, loves to speak, and loves to lead, I have often wondered if it is possible to do all of these things, and still truly be a woman of faith.

My secret inner dream? The thing that I pray silently for? I would love to be a Catholic Speaker, to travel around, and share my faith story, bringing all women closer to the heart of Christ. I would love to be a published author, to have my words reach the many women who might have doubts or fears or no faith at all, and show them how awesome their God is, that they are beautiful and worthy of His love, and that He has marvelous plans for them.

And then after I pray this, I immediately feel shame. I mean, how can I possibly ask God for these things for myself? Aren’t recognition, the desire to make money, and the love of attention the very things I should not be asking for? When preaching the Gospel is your work and your passion, how do you make a living off of that, without it coming across as shameless promotion?

“I encourage you to take those “Wow!” moments when the work you produce is compelling, beautiful, or simply awesome and see them as God’s handiwork through you. When we see our work like this, we give glory to God with a yes in our hearts, and when we share his work in us with those we meet, we take a step forward in humility.”

Lisa Hendey, published author, popular blogger, founder of a successful website, addresses this very struggle. And the good news? Her words let me know that while humility does not come naturally or easily, it is in fact possible to promote ourselves when necessary, and still remain a person of faith who lives beautifully and generously.

The key to avoiding your “inner Diva” and keeping yourself on a bedrock of humility? Use the gifts God gave you to praise Him and him alone, and never lose sight of the fact that He is the one who gave you these gifts to share in the first place! Sure, if I should ever become a public speaker, or be blessed enough to have my words one day published, the temptation to indulge in a puffed up sense of self and ego will be there, just waiting to grab me and knock me down.

And so I need to be careful; we all need to keep our eyes open and on the look out for this all too real threat. And we must ask Mary, the Queen of Humility, the Mother of God, who never pointed others to herself, but always to Christ, to intercede for us every hour of every day.

If we want to stay on course, we need to ask for help, and ironically, we need the humility to ask for the help in the first place. Women, especially, see asking for help as failure; we believe we need to be superwomen, we want everyone around us to believe that we have it all together. Lisa teaches us that it is precisely in these moments that a humble yes can bring us back on course.

“True humility accepts help when it is offered and asks for help even when the world seems to believe we have it all together.”

I may lack humility, but I can also say that I am pretty self aware. Through grace, I have come to recognize the very things that lead me down the path of selfishness. Through grace, I can see the situation that lures me into wanting to put myself before others, that begs me to want to take all of the credit, from a mile away. Through perseverance and prayer, grace and hope, and yes, that awful Litany of Humility, I am beginning to see that it is not important that everyone know how much I can do and how well I can do it, because God sees me, and He is the only one that matters; the reason I do any of it at all. I am also learning the real beauty in stepping aside, remaining silent, and allowing someone else, other than myself, to be recognized. It has taken me a long time to finally see that sometimes the greatest gift I have been given from God is the gift of allowing another to serve Him.

“All too often my ability to generously give my full yes to God’s will for my life is hindered by my own inability to forgive another or myself.”

What I was not aware of, and Lisa Hendey beautifully illustrates for us in chapter 5, is the connection between forgiveness and humility. And let me just be honest here: this is the part of the chapter I have the most trouble with, not because of Lisa’s writing, which is wonderful, but rather, because her experience in Rwanda is so moving, so powerful, so unimaginable: how can I possibly grasp it all? Truth is, I can’t.

When I have trouble forgiving the angry woman at the Cheer competition for yelling at me when all I did was ask if the seat next to her was empty, how can I begin to understand how a genocide survivor looks the murderer of her family in the eyes, and forgives them? When I have trouble forgiving my husband for leaving me with a gas tank on empty, how do I begin to comprehend the way those in Rwanda can be standing among the corpses of their children and spouses, and still wrap their arms around the very ones that took those lives from them?

I suppose I used to simply chalk it up to “they are just better than I am.” But it is not that they are better…it is that they are humble.

“Standing in a room full of the corpses of young children gives you both a grief beyond understanding and a sense of conviction that each of us must rise up and act to avoid such unspeakable acts in the future. But how, in the wake of such despicable acts, is it possible to have any hope?”

Soon after the shooting at our Sandy Hook Elementary School, my girlfriend who lost her daughter told me that not forgiving the man who murdered her beautiful daughter was never even an issue for her. In fact, the first thing she did when she got home that awful night, was to thank God for the six years she was given with her sweet child. She did not blame anyone, hold a grudge, or store up resentment. In the face of unspeakable evil and grief, she showed me a faith so strong, so courageous, you could taste it and not help but want it for yourself. Again, I thought, “she is just a better woman than I am.” But now, after reading Hendey’s words, I realize the grace she possessed was not one of being better; it was the simple and beautiful grace of true humility.

“True humility will not come naturally or easily for many of us.”

The grace of humility does not come easy for me, and yet, it is what I desire so badly. I desire it more than I desire recognition, praise and love, because truthfully, these things, while they feel great at first, always leave me feeling half full. But a “yes” to humility? A “yes” to humility is what truly grounds us, what ultimately sets us free. And when remembering Mary saying yes to the will of God and agreeing to have his son is not a good enough example for a stubborn and selfish person like me, that is when I picture her bravely standing at the foot of the cross; when I see Jesus, humble and meek, nailed to the wood of a tree, asking God to forgive us, losing his very life, so that we may all live. This is the grace I hope for, the yes that holds my heart.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. What gifts have you been given, and are you using them to glorify God?
  2. We have all thought at one time or another, “What’s in it for me?”, or “What about me?”.  Thinking this way strains our relationships, puts the focus on ourselves, and limits our yes.  These are the moments we need to think of ourselves less.
  3. Is there someone you need to forgive?  Perhaps that someone is yourself.  What are the benefits of holding onto resentment, and how has it kept you from a generous yes to God? Pray the Litany of Humility (if you dare!)

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 6: The Grace of Vulnerability. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Grace of Yes Book Club page.

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31 Comments

  1. Laura, thank you for your beautiful post! I found this chapter to be another one where Lisa’s honesty struck me as incredibly brave, and I think your post is right there with it. Thanks for sharing your struggles (which I can TOTALLY relate to – starting with how long I stewed at the blankety-blanks in the parking garage last night…after being at the Christmas festival).

    This book has been such a blessing and a challenge to me! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on humility. 🙂

  2. Laura, I’m sitting hear with tears running down my face. Thank you for what you have shared here. I have to say that this chapter was truly the most challenging one for me to write. And I have to credit my amazing editor Eileen for pulling much of the Rwanda section out of me. The initial draft I gave her did not include most of that. But she asked me to expound, and I do think that it turned out to be one of the most powerful sections of the book. I also want to share that when I did the audiobook recording of this book (http://goo.gl/xljQOP), this chapter was a killer to read aloud. There is a lot of emotion here — so it’s gratifying to hear that it is a blessing for friends who are reading it.

  3. This is what I wrote about humility, based on Lisa’s writing.

    Humility means recognizing and pursuing God’s Will before our own. Humility means recognizing our faults and failings and admitting them out loud to a priest through the grace-filled Sacrament of Confession.

    Do you need a lifelong confession? (http://www.iblogjesus.com/2012/02/do-you-need-lifelong-confession.html)

    Humility is forgiveness of those who have hurt us, even when the wounds are buried deep….and forgiving ourselves, recognizing how we let our past sins detract from our self worth, even when we have long since been absolved.

    • My oh my Monica, your last paragraph hits the nail on the head! The wounds being buried and not ever dealt with leaves an open festering wound that can only begin to heal with forgiving ourselves. I never recognized this as an act of humility however I do see the letting go and not demanding resolution as humility. It is a two fold commitment to trusting God and his desire to love us unconditionally.
      Gina

  4. Pride will continue to trip me up, until my dying breath. I have struggled from so many forms of it during my life – from the kind of pride expressed through my blatant rejection of the Catholic faith and of God Himself, and selfish worldly living, all the way to the other side of the sin – pious pride in a false sense of spiritual intellect and perceived holy living once I came to the faith. I have indeed tasted all forms of the sin of pride and am greatly wounded because of it. It is a beast that requires a constant feeding of ‘self’ and becomes all consuming. And the only way to tame this beast is through prayer and a ‘fast’ of sorts. Fasting from one’s own will. And then learning to say Yes to God no matter what the cost. And this Yes can cost more than most are willing to pay.

    Daily struggles. Daily defeats. But also daily joy, as we face each moment and choose to conquer ‘self’ – to say no to self – and Yes to Our Lord instead. My batting average is still abysmal, as I learn to watch each ball life pitches at me. Choosing the balls at which to swing (or react to) and what to pass me by is so difficult! My inner Diva wants to swing at everything!

    I got a chuckle out of your initial reaction to the humility litany, as I think most of us are repulsed by what we ask for in the prayer. It was my reaction to it as well! But now it is a beloved companion as I fight that prideful ‘beast’ within. So much to meditate on!

  5. Lisa, this was the chapter that I underlined like crazy. It applied so directly to my life, and I think anyone in this day and age of digital technology, social media, selfies and the need to self-promote in many areas makes us all susceptible. I have long felt “humility” is one of the most necessary words in our world, and it’s certainly a prerequisite for a vital faith life. But how do we rectify that with the world around? It’s not easy, and it seems every day brings challenges. It was brave of you to tackle this topic (and word), and we are the richer for it. Thank you!

    • Roxane thank YOU for your kind comment. In my mind, this is a constant balancing act. And I’m blessed to have coworkers in the vineyard like YOU who set such a great example for me!

  6. Laura, oh how beautiful. The Holy Spirit was working through those three rough drafts of yours to lead you to this masterpiece (kind of makes me think of Zechariah 13:9*). Your words (and Lisa’s) have blessed me today beyond measure. Thank you for sharing your grace, humility, honesty, and wisdom with us.

    (*I will bring the one third through the fire; I will refine them as one refines silver…)

  7. This chapter really resonated with me, too, and the passages about Rwanda were heart rending. Thank you, Lisa. And thanks, Laura. I’m going to look up the litany of humility. I think I’ve seen it before, but it’s time that
    I pray it.

  8. Laura, thank you for allowing God to show us the virtue of humility through your on-the-spot writing. I loved what Lisa wrote about this and you took so many thoughts I had about this out of my head. I share many of your desires and then also stop myself or say no to those opportunities because I’m so afraid of my pride. But, in doing so, I’m missing those opportunities to serve God. I think it’s normal to have some pride but if we give our Yes to Him, He’ll take the good for His Will and discard or filter out the bad (pride, vanity, etc).
    Oh and I’m so glad I’m not the only one who has a love/hate relationship with the Humility Litany!

  9. Lisa your words “The energy I give to not forgiving or holding a grudge…” is absolutely a disease that plagues my soul far more often than I care to admit. I dive deeper into other things that occupy my time and mind avoiding the true opportunity for grace and growth. I avoid the lesson of humility.

    The courageous acts of humility described in the book as well as in Laura’s reflection are far beyond what I feel I have the capacity to emulate. And dare I say that while I know practice makes perfect, this is one grace that should it not be a part of God’s plan for me I am good with that:) (this is me deflecting) I am okay being mediocre. lol

    I do use this bit of a petition, prayer, plea or mantra (tone and attitude make all the difference) for those times when I am avoiding those lessons I now recognize as lessons in humility.

    Lord, you have given me an opportunity to show you greatness of character. Help me to seize it.

  10. I too underlined almost half of every page in this chapter and wrote notes in the margins! Humility is a lifelong process. As I read over the comments, I truly identify with the self promotion dilemma. To be honest, I struggle with an online presence in general. I would prefer not to have one at all. But, I truly believe I have a responsibility and desire of heart to give back to God all that He has given to me for His glory. I have a job to do and no one else is going to do it for me. This belief overrides my concerns,transforming them into persistence, which I pray reflects some traces of humility and obedience to God.
    I once sat before the Blessed Sacrament lamenting to the Lord how I was not interested in a public ministry of any sorts. I tried to convince Him He had the wrong girl! I remember calling off long lists of all my inadequacies. I even offered Jesus the names other people that would be great at what I felt He was calling me to. That way, I wouldn’t have to face my fears, struggles and insecurities. I would remain in my illusion of “control”. Jesus won. He healed me; showing me all I have to do is take one step at a time holding His holy hand. After all, “ This is not about me.”
    Of course I already new that…didn’t I?
    Be comforted Lisa, Divas wear every kind of mask.

  11. I went through an experience at the beginning of the week that brought me humility and showed me my deep lack thereof. I have been reflecting on it and wanting to blog about it but life has gotten in the way, and I’m glad it did in order for me to read this chapter first. Reading this chapter, I realized that though I think less of myself, I don’t think of myself less. I really am aware of where I need to grow in humility, and I thank you for that, Lisa.

  12. I struggle with perfectionism, which is based in pride that I can attain holiness all by myself. I am reading a book by Fr Jacques Philippe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace, for a parish book study. To be peaceful we must be as little children by trusting God in all aspects of our life, without over-thinking everything. It requires humility to be as a little child, dependent on someone else for everything. In reality, we are dependent on God for everything—we just don’t like to admit it. I must let God work holiness in me, in His timing and His way, and not overly worry about every little mistake I make or sin I commit. I must rectify mistakes and confess sins and go on in faith that God will take care of me.

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