We often hear of humility in the context of Christian virtue and are reminded that Christ and The Blessed Mother were certainly paragons of that kind of humility. As followers of Christ, we are thus expected to be as humble as possible as we love and serve God and others. However, many people have the wrong idea about humility and often confuse it with humiliation.
The True Meaning of Humility
Humility is simply realizing, accepting, embracing, and maximizing the fact that we are nothing more than God’s instruments for love and service. It is not about us but rather about God, and the sooner we get that the faster we will truly do God’s work the way He wants us to do that work. Much, if not most, of sin stems from thinking that it is about us or what we want. When we truly empty ourselves of self and see God as the core, great things happen.
The Distorted Meaning of Humility
Too many people today see humility as being a quiet doormat, a passive or reticent mummy who is glad to step into the background. How wrong this view is ! Does this describe Christ to you? It does not do that for me! Christ was the ultimate in humility yet he was no wallflower. Humility means thinking of God and others before self, but that may require us to be very assertive and tough at times. For example, suppose someone was spitting at an image of Christ. Would you just step back quietly or do something about it? People imagine a humble person as not thinking that they are qualified to speak or act in many cases, but that is not what humility really is.
Humility is not about being scared or so passive as to be insignificant in this world. Just look at the most humble Christ and Mary and ask if they have made a difference in this world.
The Culprit…Humiliation and Its Difference to Humility
When people distort humility, they are usually doing it via humiliation, which many people think means the same thing. Humility is directed at voluntarily embracing God and others before our own interests. It is not about shame or comparison with others. By contrast, humiliation is all about shame and comparison and self and has nothing voluntary about it.
When we are humiliated, it is because we feel shame in comparing ourselves to others and feeling that we have been reduced somehow in that comparison against our will ( involuntary). Being bashed by a teacher in public or laughed at by onlookers is humiliating if one somehow feels reduced in the eyes of others by this situation.
There is the key difference between humility and humiliation: humility is voluntarily placing, serving, and loving God and others before self and humiliation is involuntarily feeling reduced or shamed openly and publicly in comparison to how we see ourselves. The person who thinks she can sing and is laughed off stage is humiliated. The one who knows she cannot sing and is laughed off stage was expecting the response and may laughingly go along with the response.
You should never and will never be humiliated serving and loving God and others as long as you realize and embrace the fact that doing so is the greatest calling we can have. However, doing these things will go hand in hand with being humble because they are the very essence of what being humble is all about. Many say Jesus died a humiliating death but I propose that he died a humble death. He willingly and freely gave himself up to love and serve God and us and there is nothing humiliating about that.
So understand the difference between humility and humiliation and make it your goal to be the former so you will never experience the latter.
2017 Gabriel Garnica