Humility

August 11, 2006

I am reading a book (see or buy it here) called Border of Death, Valley of Life by Daniel Groody, a Catholic priest and theology professor.

I’m sure I’ll be talking about it over the next week or two; I’ve got to read it prior to starting orientation for seminary as it will be on our agenda for discussion and work in our new student orientation.

It is a fabulous book in many ways.  So far I haven’t read one thing that didn’t inspire me or make me nod my head in agreement, and that is pretty hard to do.

One of the things that struck me today was the subject of humility.

I have been accused of “self-worship”, “self-promotion”, “lack of humility” and all sorts of other things when talking about the importance of embracing the self fully when coming into God’s light.  I have been told that I need humility, which I don’t disagree with, but those who differ with me seem to have a very different definition of what is ok and what is not ok to embrace within the self.  I often hear things like “we need to put others ahead of self” to which I respond, “no, we love our neighbors AS ourselves”– if we don’t love ourselves then the equality of neighborly love isn’t very equal.  I think I have identified the reason for the difference between my point of view and some of those who have a different perspective.

Here is a quote from Groody’s book, which is focused on undocumented immigrants and their humiliating struggle for freedom and its relation to their spiritual growth:

They realize that preaching humility to the powerless is enslaving, while preaching humility to the empowered is liberating…  For those who have been so beaten down and dehumanized, the conversion process is not simply a movement from humble submission and arrogance but to a rightful pride and a sense of dignity that assures them that they too are children of God with a divine mission to accomplish.

I identify with that.  Gay and lesbian folks struggle for this same assurance and pride.  We seek also to move out of the enslavement of the humiliation of the margins into the full light of Jesus Christ.  That requires a restoration of dignity and pride.  That is a very different journey from a straight, white, rich man born and raised in the US who may need to have a very different experience of humiliation to experience Jesus.

All of this again reinforces to me the value of dialogue and diversity.  We always are trapped by our own experiences, assuming that what is good for me is good for you.  I assume that my experience of humility should work for you, and vice versa.  That just isn’t the case, in my opinion.  And I believe that it is only through patient dialogue that we will encounter the wonderful and full range of the human experience that is the Jesus in all of us.

j

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5 Responses to “Humility”

  1. D Hamilton Says:

    Was this self-effacing pasquinade intentional or serendipitous? Well done either way.

    I can see where the correlation between the struggle of undocumented aliens and Lesbian & Gays for freedom is almost apparent except for disparity in magnitude of physical risk and progress toward acceptance, particularly when viewed in the 1990s and 2000s time frame. However, the mental injury incurred by both groups may be generally equivalent although coming from differing sources. Groody+ outlook on humility is intriguing and applicable to and explanative of other marginalized communities in our society.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Yes, and as I’ve said often I think we get in trouble when trying to “rank” the troubles of marginalized peoples.

    Certainly the physical risk of undocumented immigrants as they cross the border is great- as he points out in the book only 35 people ever died trying to cross the Berlin wall but over 2000 people have died trying to cross the border looking for freedom in this country. And for this we now have a large portion of this country looking to make it harder by putting up more barricades and walls, increasing the deaths, rather than solving the humanitarian crisis in Mexico that is causing them to leave in the first place.

    But to say in any way that the problems of gays and lesbians are insignificant in comparison is not acceptable to me.

    The teenager who has struggled with finding acceptance; with trying to find a place where he can be nurtured and loved for who he is but cannot find that home because he is always told that he needs to change in order to become accepted; that teenager who stands alone in his bathroom late at night contemplating suicide certainly is marginalized.

    I do not want to rank the two against each other. We could compare them in number of deaths or some other quantitative measure; but I believe that any suffering pains the heart of God, and we should work to bring all people into a place of welcome and acceptance.

    j

  3. Susan Russell Says:

    What on earth is a “pasquinade”?

  4. Jeff Says:

    Susan –

    Your post made me laugh out loud. 🙂

    And, I have no idea what a pasquinade is but I’m determined to work it into a sentence today anyway.

    j


  5. […] I don’t believe that it is so much an “either/or” as a “both/and.”  I am reminded so much of the Groody book I discussed several weeks ago when I discussed humility and the power of the poor.  We are so trapped by our own experiences that it seems to be very hard to imagine that others may experience Christ as something very different than we do. […]


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