January 25, May 26, September 25
Chapter 7: On Humility
Holy Scripture, brethren, cries out to us, saying,
“Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled,
and he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
In saying this it shows us
that all exaltation is a kind of pride,
against which the Prophet proves himself to be on guard
when he says,
“Lord, my heart is not exalted,
nor are mine eyes lifted up;
neither have I walked in great matters,
nor in wonders above me.”
But how has he acted?
“Rather have I been of humble mind
than exalting myself;
as a weaned child on its mother’s breast,
so You solace my soul” (Ps. 130:1-2).
if we wish to reach the very highest point of humility
and to arrive speedily at that heavenly exaltation
to which ascent is made through the humility of this present life,
by our ascending actions
erect the ladder Jacob saw in his dream,
on which Angels appeared to him descending and ascending.
By that descent and ascent
we must surely understand nothing else than this,
that we descend by self-exaltation and ascend by humility.
And the ladder thus set up is our life in the would,
which the Lord raises up to heaven if our heart is humbled.
For we call our body and soul the sides of the ladder,
and into these sides our divine vocation has inserted
the different steps of humility and discipline we must climb.
Returning to the RB today, what do I discover but that it is good ole Chapter 7 on Humility, the section of the Rule with which I struggle the most. And I mean struggle.
All my life, I’ve been called names like arrogant, domineering, egotistical, suffering under the burdens of other people’s unflattering judgment of me. I can’t tell you how much it has hurt and devastated me. Especially because what I really was most of the time was seriously depressed and terrified of the illness. Certainly, I must not have carried this cross of depression graciously, overcompensating. I’d spent my life trying to shape myself into the sort of person people would like. Only problem is there was no one persona I could adopt that would please everyone. As I grew matured I became better able to sort out my issues from those of other people, I realized that other people were trying to make me take the responsibility for their own discomfort with my obvious depression. Rather than examine themselves to learn why they had such a reaction, they’d blame me for it. As time went on, I despised such people. Which was very wrong of me.
Another thing that was/is difficult for other people is that I am smart and intellectually inclined. It was one good thing about myself that I was positive of and I clung to it like a lifeboat. Spending every single moment of every single day in despair, darkness, aching, yearning for someone to tell me what was wrong with me so I could fix it, I used my brain to get me through, trying to ignore my emotions and allowing my intellect to steer me through. As that worked for me, as my education advanced with the highest possible GPA, I despised those who seemed to resent me for being more intelligent than they. Which was very wrong of me.
As a result, this chapter, above all the others, challenges me. It asks me to give up some of those habits I learned in order to survive a lifetime of Major Depressive Disorder that eventually disabled me. What this chapter asks of me to recognize is that while I am not better than anyone else, i am really also no worse than anyone else. Which was perhaps the biggest lie the Insidious Dark ever told me.
I will always have a strong personality. How could I not? It was shaped in the crucible. There’s that hymn that was sung somewhere, I forget exactly how it goes, something like “bend me, mold me, crush me, shape me” and I used to find it unbearable to sing because such was my daily life and if other people only knew what those words meant, they wouldn’t sing them so cheerfully.
Part of the razor’s edge of humility, it seems to me, is knowing who God called me to be and saying no to everything else. I’ve spent my life between too extremes. One extreme was my own inflated view of just how brilliant I was. The other extreme was how rotten a person I was. Both are equally wrong in the Lord’s eyes.
This may be too personal, but that was my response to today’s reading. Do these words of Benedict call forth anything from you?