Charlie's Blog: The Discipline of Humility


The Discipline of Humility

When you feel sometimes - perhaps without reason - that you have been humiliated; when you think your opinion should prevail; when you notice that at every moment your ``self'' keeps cropping up: your this, your that, your something else... convince yourself that you are wasting, killing time, and that what you should be doing is killing your selfishness.

My favorite character from the Vacation franchise is Cousin Eddie played by the incomparable Randy Quaid. There is a Cousin Eddie in every family. If your family doesn't have a Cousin Eddie, chances are you are the Cousin Eddie. Eddie was famous for bad taste, low IQ, being inconsiderate, and playing the redneck. Plus, those white leather shoes were just awesome. It makes me want to get a pair.

I wonder if I am the Cousin Eddie in my family, but I am learning to not let it bother me. I am mocked for my Southern accent or living in a state that is at the bottom of the list of good things like education and the top of the list of things like crime and illiteracy. I remember when I lived in Florida how everyone assumed I belonged to the Ku Klux Klan because I was from South Carolina. Becoming Catholic has only intensified the negative opinions about me not only to those who don't live here but also to those who do live here. I have learned to bear these things with equanimity. As Marcus Aurelius put it, "The best revenge is to not be like your enemy."

The discipline of humility is how to refrain from becoming like your enemy. It is accepting the role of the rube and the imbecile without anger or striking back. You let others think less of you. This is a hard thing to do until you realize that you are powerless to change what people think about you. The only options are to either confirm those negative opinions about you or to show by your example that they are not true.

My hero on humility is Blessed Mother Teresa. No one in my lifetime identified so much with the outcasts and the poor as she did. She even had a list of tips on how to practice humility. Here it is:
1. Speak as little as possible about yourself.
2. Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
3. Avoid curiosity.
4. Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
5. Accept small irritations with good humor.
6. Do not dwell on the faults of others.
7. Accept censures even if unmerited.
8. Give in to the will of others.
9. Accept insults and injuries.
10. Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
11. Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
12. Do not seek to be admired and loved.
13. Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
14. Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
15. Choose always the more difficult task.
What an awesome list. I admit that I don't do any of those things. I am in no danger of becoming a saint anytime soon. But reading this list humbles me, and I would be greatly humbled to be in the presence of such a holy woman as this. That's the weird thing about humility. It brings you greater dignity. I can also attest from my own experience that pride leads to humiliation and disgrace. How often I have run my mouth and made a proud fool of myself.

My resolution for the new year is to be more humble. I am going to strive to preach less and practice more. I am going to stop worrying about what others think about me. I will accept calumnies, insults, and detractions. In short, I am going to try and be more like Mother Theresa. The best step I can take in this direction is to accept the reputation of being that Southern rube, that cookie worshipper, and that papist. Much of our energy is wasted on defending ourselves from detraction. The best way is to just let it be and just be yourself.