“If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” – Mother Teresa
Humility is an elusive virtue. To see yourself how you truly are, not how you’d like to be, requires a level of inward focus that by its nature should be fleeting as the truth can, and often does, contradict with our natural desires.
To be perfectly humble would be awful as to become untouchable by life would be a terrible fate. Yet, to not seek humility promises an equally terrible fate as our instincts are all but guaranteed to warp our view of reality and left unchecked will produce a level of narcissism that suffocates reason.
The best we can hope for is to diligently seek humility in small intervals throughout our days while pursuing our goals.
Mother Teresa is a fine example of humility. Shortly after her death, her personal writings were made public. She suffered an immense crisis of faith for some 50 years but continued her selfless work to be a humble servant of people in need.
“Where is my Faith—even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness—My God—how painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith—I dare not utter the words & thoughts that crowd in my heart—& make me suffer untold agony.” – Mother Teresa
The depth to which Mother Teresa went to keep her humility in check while living out her days in line with her ethics is truly admirable. It is easy to do the right thing when you have your faith to carry you through times of doubt. To lose your faith and continue without complaint is a feat that not many people would be able to accomplish with the level of grace Mother Teresa did. In this regard, she may be admired by Christians and atheists alike.
A life without conflict is not much of a life. When I think how much of my daily thoughts are consumed with resolving or accepting conflicts it’s easy to see that my mind would become a void in their absence. Perhaps some people would fill such a void with meaningful inquiry into science, religion, or some other fruitful endeavor. I am confident that I however would simply self-destruct. I know myself well enough to know that left unchecked my natural instincts rob me of productiveness which in turn leads to a terrible life.
However, by examining my own life, I can refine, and follow my ethics which provides a constant undercurrent of serenity. That’s not to say my waters are always calm, but rather the current is always going in the right direction.
The last few weeks have been challenging at home. Finding time to do any sort of selfcare is difficult. But these are the moments in life that define us – how we act when we have nothing left to give. Moments of self-pity and anger are quickly followed with gratitude and focus. The ebb and flow of emotion is a gift.
Our daughter currently has Covid, and her tummy has a lot to say about that. In an act of providence or unbelievably bad timing, she has decided that now is the time that she is going to potty train. The first few days were rather innocent and productive as she simply went on the potty when she had to go. Then she got diarrhea.
This morning our daughter is not living in the same reality as us. In her mind, she is officially potty trained; diapers be dammed! She has successfully made it to the toilet two out of the four diarrhea attacks she’s had this morning. After the first accident, she moved the training toilet to the living room in front of the T.V., took off her pants and spent the better part of the morning camped out there. The last accident was when she got up to go get her pants and couldn’t make it back to the toilet in time – although she did try.
If our daughter was being humble, she would accept that her body is acting outside of her control and wear a diaper. But her instincts are telling her that it is time to do something different. Sitting is poop is not ideal and it’s time for change. Her ego is allowing her to push herself to do something she shouldn’t be able to do – potty train at 24 months year old while sick with diarrhea.
While the aftermath of my daughter’s potty training learning curve is not my favorite, I am very pleased that she is it not wavering in her resolve to be self-sufficient. I can reflect on this experience in my own life. Learning is hard. It is often messy and sometimes downright gross. But to grow beyond myself I must push through all of it. Whatever instincts give me the grit to get through the hard times today, can be balanced out with humility tomorrow. A bit of brazenness is required to remain teachable and move forward in life.
Today, I will strive for humility but hope to never fully achieve it.