The Freedom of Humility

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"The freedom of humility" by Monica Portogallo (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2008), CC0/PD

I remember reading this Litany of Humility prayer as a young woman and not liking it. I thought it was too harsh. “What is wrong with being loved or praised? Why should I want to be ridiculed? Surely God does want that. He only allows it.”

As I grew older and came to understand humility better, I realized I was missing the point. It is not being well-regarded itself that is evil. It is the longing to be praised and the fear of being mistreated that leads to evil and sin. We can become trapped by these desires and fears before we realize what is happening.

Feeling Trapped by Criticism

Through my marriage, God has given me an ongoing lesson in humility. Marriage to someone who drinks too much almost always involves some insults, false accusations, ridicule, and the like. There was a time when I felt compelled to protect my pride and prove him wrong every single time. Every single time I did that, I felt humiliated, trapped, and victimized.

Over time, I learned it was his disease talking, not him, and not to take it too seriously. Once I learned to let go of the desire to be praised, and stopped fearing the insults, I felt so much freer. He didn’t have the power to ruin my day or make me question myself anymore.

Ironically, letting go of these desires and fears helped me to see better the battles I do need to choose when it comes to my husband’s behavior, and when is the right time to address them. Fear of being wronged had me reacting immediately to every trivial slight, making me a nagging, petty shell of a person. Humility gives me eyes to see what behavior really needs a calm, firm, thoughtful response after the heat of the moment has cooled, and what issues are not worth my time.

A Slave to Social Media

Maybe it is just me, but I feel like it is so easy for social media to suck me into the desiring praise, fearing criticism trap.

How many times have I obsessively checked for likes or comments when I post something I think is worthy of praise? How many times have I failed to respond to evil or misleading comments on social media for fear of being verbally attacked?

My friend teaches social studies at a Catholic boys’ high school. She told me about the unspoken protocol her students said that they observe on Instagram: Boys can only post one picture of themselves per day, but girls can post more; otherwise you look conceited. If you don’t get a certain number of likes in a couple hours, take it down. That means it was a bad post or photo, so it should be deleted. I could feel the stifling anxiety these boys experience just from her description of this phenomenon.

Social media so easily lures us into looking to others for our value, even those of us who know our real value comes from God.

Once I turned off notifications and made a conscious effort to avoid being preoccupied with things like comments, likes, and number of followers, I enjoyed the time I allow myself on social media much more. As CatholicMom contributor Tommy Tighe says in his Twitter bio, “From the desire to be retweeted, deliver us, O Lord.”

The way I see it, humility is about being honest and accepting of reality. When I’m humble, I don’t need people to like me because I know my worth. I don’t need to fear insults, because I know my flaws and accept them, or work on them. When I am humble, an insult based on real flaws or mistakes doesn’t bother me, because it’s just a statement of fact. An unfounded criticism is easy to ignore, because I know it’s simply not true. In other words, when I am humble, other people don’t control how I feel about myself. I am free to be me, to be the woman God calls me to be, without fear of what people will think.

I will be the first to admit I am not as humble as I could (or should) be. At least now, though, I see the good of humility and truly seek it.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus…

by Merry Cardinal del Val, from the prayer book for Jesuits, 1963


Copyright 2019 Monica Portogallo

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About Author

Monica Portogallo is a wife, mother, and registered dietitian nutritionist who does her best not to miss the lessons God sends to her through the joys and struggles of daily life. She lives in California.

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