It seems like a bit of irony to write about humility around the Fourth of July, when my nation celebrates freedom and independence with great pride. Then again, Independence Day has always been ironic to me, because my mother told me that I was conceived on that day — and I’m certainly not independent. With muscles continually wasting in strength by my genetic, progressive disease, I have always been dependent upon others for basic care and my dependency is only getting worse. Earlier this year, Sister Marie Pappas said, on her XM radio interview with me, that my extreme dependency means that I was educated in the school of humility.
If that’s the case, then I’m afraid I’ve been a poor student.
God knows that I suffer from pride. Yes, pride can be a real suffering. It can cause me to push other people down with my words — or even the tone of my words — so that I might prop myself up to my prideful vision of myself and, by so doing, fall miserably into the absence of truth and the absence of love. Pride lies to us. It can cause us to think that we are somehow better humans than other humans, that we’re not in need of improvement, or that we don’t all depend on one another.
Aren’t we all dependent? We depend upon the Earth for food to keep us alive and we depend upon each other, needing one another in ways that we’re far too little to directly see. I know that my existence depends upon God, and that I’m dependent upon other humans in order to eat, to stay warm, to move about safely … do you, dear reader?
Humility is a gift. It’s the gift of clarity, of knowing and living the truth.
I may know the truth — but do I live it?
This summer, as I’m praying for Christians to live, speak (“tweet”), and act in humble, self-giving love that respects the God-given dignity of every body in every ethnicity, every stage of development, every age, and every level of ability, I consider my own thoughts and actions. The truth is that I let pride get the better of me, not being as kind as God wants me to be to the people nearest to me. I criticize. I whine. My tone can be demeaning and is often self-serving.
My family and I most definitely love one another — that is clear inside and out — but on some days, or in some moments, the tone of our words doesn’t express love at all. It isn’t necessarily what we say to each other, but how we say it, that can stir up a spirit of proud willfulness, dominance, bitterness, or unkindness. You, dear reader, understand what I mean by tone and have experienced its contagious quality. You might be in a good mood, but then someone starts talking to you all snippy or harshly impatient, and you find yourself slipping into snippiness and harsh impatience too. Particular tones of voice or wording can immediately make us defensive, and then we soon become offensive — to our loved ones, to the divine virtues that we strive to practice … and, so ultimately, offensive to God and ourselves.
Thankfully, a loving family is ultimately merciful, as God is merciful. But how we daily live our private lives, in the most common moments, reflects and even affects our public lives. Surely, if I cannot find patience and gentleness in my heart for those whom I particularly love, if I cannot practice the tone of respect, mercy, and hope with those who break bread with me, then how can I ever succeed in lovingly bearing public witness with my words and tone to God’s love for every human life?
Only love draws people to love.
On social media postings, the contagious spirit of dominance and cruelty can be both shockingly obvious and destructive in both short and long-term. It is said that the devil plays the long game. So beware. Be aware that the digs that we make against one another accumulate to dig abysmal holes in our own souls and the soul of our nation. For example, acting as though one’s fellow human being is worthless because of his or her actions fuels that evil judgment (yes, evil) that not every living human is worthy of life.
In true humility, we know the amazing, joyful truth that every human being is worthy, belonging to God from the moment of his or her conception as a beloved creature of perishable body and immortal soul. And, for as long as that person is alive on Earth, every angel and Saint lovingly roots for that image of God to remain with or return to God, to freely choose what is good, true, and beautiful. Do we root for them? Do we help and encourage people to use their freedom to choose God’s love through our own reflections of divine love into the world? Or do we coldly condemn those who are, at any point in their lives, falling away from the One who loves them intimately and infinitely? Is our tone, in private and public, the tone of humility or false pride?
Praying for hardened hearts to soften by human witness of divine love, I beg God’s mercy on me for all of the times that I have loved my own opinions, witty words, finite desires, or comfort more than Him who is infinite truth, goodness, and kindness — Love Itself. We don’t exist in order to have dominance over another human life. In humble, self giving love, with gentle strength and hopeful patience, let’s speak out against human violations of God-given dignity and equality — the malignancy of racism and the mercilessness of abortion — with the knowledge that no one is worthier than another of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And let us keep in mind, all the while, that our true happiness abides in the heart of Creation, in the heart of our Creator, in the heart of truth and love — in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Christ, help me to be patient, merciful, and gentle like You, to share the strength and goodness of Your true love in every little moment, in every encounter with one of Your fellow human beings. Heal me, teach me, form me into Your other self!
“Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.”
© 2020 Christina Chase
Photos copyright 2020 Dan Chase
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.