I stumbled across J Augustine Wetta’s “Humility Rules” while looking for books about faith on Amazon. I bought it because who doesn’t need more humility in life? Also, the author is a surfing monk—who once surfed next to a shark (true story, look it up).
The concept is simple. Want to grow in humility? Follow St. Benedict’s Ladder of Humility, which is broken down into sections in this book. Sound complicated? Don’t worry, the book comes with homework to show you how simple it all really is. Here are some of the assignments I tried:
1. Deliberately get behind someone walking or driving slow.
I found myself thinking, “We drive so we can get places faster. So sure, let’s drive 25 mph in a 45 zone?” Each time I got behind anyone slow, and deliberately stayed there, I had to make a conscious effort not to think about what time it was. And say a lot of Hail Marys.
Lesson learned: Take a breath, say a Hail Mary or nine, and remind myself that wherever I’m going isn’t so important that I have to get upset, angry, or think rudely of anyone around me. I also learned that leaving earlier eliminated this issue.
2. Clean up someone else’s mess.
Even as a parent, it’s not easy cleaning up after someone else. At points in my days, I often think to myself: “Why am I doing this? This isn’t my mess.” Then I get a little flash of a reminder that Christ didn’t make the mess that put him on the Cross either.
Lesson learned: Perspective is everything. What I saw as someone else’s responsibility was really an opportunity to do something for someone else.
3. Next time something isn’t done your way, leave it if it works.
My 6- and 7-year-old daughters recently helped me fold towels. When I saw the end product it didn’t look much different than when it was heaped in the basket. Rather than correct it, I thanked them and helped them put the towels away.
Lesson learned: Just because it wasn’t done the way I would have done it, doesn’t lessen the value of the help given. And nobody who uses the towel cares if it was folded properly.
4. Spend a whole day not correcting anyone.
- My husband can’t pronounce the words “album” or “karaoke” correctly.
- My 3-year-old kept calling our cat Salsa and her name is Silver.
- A family member incorrectly explained the difference between mortal and venial sins on their Facebook page.
- The pest control guy kept calling me Christine.
Lesson learned: At the end of the day, I hadn’t thought twice about any of it. Being right is sometimes overrated.
5. Let a bug live.
I couldn’t get into my house because this huge bug was between me and the door. When I stepped toward it to go inside, it turned it’s head and looked at me. So, I got the hose and gently sprayed it out of my way. I ran into the house, slammed the door and locked the deadbolt. It was still very much alive when I went inside. I know, because I watched to make sure from the window before quickly lowering the shades.
Lesson learned: Just because I don’t like someone doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be respected.
6. Arrive for Mass 20 minutes early.
I used to go to Mass 20 minutes early every weekend. It gave me a chance to let the noise of my day settle down and helped me focus on being open to the Holy Spirit. As a parent, noise follows me wherever I go like the little puff of dust that follows the character Pig Pen around in the “Peanuts” cartoons. So, when I decided to revisit this with my strong-willed 3-year-old boy, I used up all his quiet time waiting for Mass to start. Twenty minutes to be precise.
Lesson learned: Free will begins at conception and is exercised with full-force only during Mass.
7. Next time someone annoys you, don’t tell anyone.
I caught myself telling a friend everything about someone I had an issue with. We call it venting. It’s actually gossip. I spent the next several weeks working on this assignment and failed every time. Finally, I did succeed, but it’s forever a work in progress.
Lesson learned: Pray it out. I took it to God, and he quietly listened before reminding me to look within myself and at my own flaws.
As I tackled these homework assignments, I identified a lot of my own weaknesses that I need to work on in order to become more humble. I’m able to see more clearly when I’m not being patient when I’m being judgemental, or when I’m not putting others first. I don’t always succeed at humility, but I am able to pinpoint where I slipped. It’s not much, but it’s a start and all big changes start with small ones. Even the smallest act of humility is still a fast and direct route to being closer to God.
(Originally published October 29th, 2018)