“What humility does for one is it reminds us that there are people before me. I have already been paid for. And what I need to do is prepare myself so that I can pay for someone else who has yet to come but who may be here and needs me.” —Maya Angelou
“Because your heart was penitent and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words…and you have humbled yourself before me, and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you…” —2 Chronicles 34:27
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” —Thomas Merton
“I think that there is a very close connection between humility and patience. Humility involves having the capacity to take a more confrontational stance, having the capacity to retaliate if you wish, yet deliberately deciding not to do so.” —His Holiness, The Dalai Lama
Of all the topics that I imagined might have come up during my session with Linda today, humility was admittedly a bit of a surprise—although not really upon some reflection. In the broader context, we were discussing my recent bout of discouragement and dispassion for the continuing job search and how I’ve been having a hard time maintaining resilience. Even Linda herself said that she could tell I was less optimistic than in previous sessions, yet, there was a positive turn in the sense of greater awareness around an on-going issue that I have carried.
Continuing to take myself aback, at one point in our session I answered Linda’s prompt about this issue of pride that I’d sensed coming up again in my life, particularly in terms of not wanting to ask a Higher Power (or anyone outside of myself) for continuing help or renewal in soldiering on, by quoting a verse I hadn’t thought about in years: “Humble yourselves before [God], and [God] will exalt you” (James 4:10).
This powerful statement eventually led me down the rabbit trail of collected thought regarding humility that I included before I started writing. I was also curious about the roots of the word itself; according to a quick Google search, the origins of the term aren’t terribly disarming, but one phrase stood out to me. In the context of Church Latin, the word humilis “literally (means) ‘on the ground,’” with a root word humus that means “earth.”
At various stages of our session, I referred to a sense of not being “grounded” or “anchored” in my questing, and now, I can see this unwillingness to simply be on the ground, a created creature close to the earth while reaching for the stars, has been a greater thorn in my side than I’d realized. The Merton quote above also feels quite pointed in this context. I think I’m afraid to be real—to really feel, touch, taste, smell, speak and hear. Life has felt safer in the confines of my imagination, a refuge for many children of unstable homes.
Quotes running amuck again, I can’t help but think of Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit:
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
While I listen to a recording of the book as I type this, it seems no coincidence that the rabbit being described as “quite earthy” after growing in use and connection with the boy who loved him concurrently. What gives me pause is the same question as the rabbit’s: “Does it hurt?”
I think it does, and for the last several years, hurt has been a familiar feeling, just as I also discussed the coping mechanisms needed for the tender-hearted with Linda today as well. A good deal of job searching is about rejection, and if I’m being fair, I’ve had my armor up as general practice, questing withstanding. I don’t take feedback well. I push back against authority. I am loath to ask for help. It’s just the vulnerability thing, and when that rears its head, “Petulance” is my first, middle and last name.
Having said all this, I don’t know what the answers to all the questions that came up today might even be close to being, as Linda said, “I’m hearing ‘journey’ here, not ‘destination.’” But feeling into the hurt and the process of becoming real seems to be the “lesson” I was trying to noodle out as the cause, or one of the causes, behind why my experiences have worked out the way they have this last bit.
And, so I pray and hope this journey—along with all the journeys it’s a part of—will do just that, make real and make me beautiful. In tandem with this, I would become more and more of the earth, humble and vulnerable to the processes of relationship and discovery. It’s hard, but it’s honest.
I’d rather have something honest and real, than false and affected.
I am a Nashville-based nonprofit professional with experience across Human Services, Community Engagement, Hospitality, Development & Marketing. In tandem with this employment experience, I also hold a B.S. in Human & Organizational Development (with a concentration in Health & Human Services) & a Master of Divinity from Vanderbilt University.
I bring the drive to take initiative, to solve problems collectively & efficiently, to continue pursuing lifelong learning, to embrace challenge & growth as an employee & person, to tell the story of organizations & stakeholders in honor of the Hero's Journey that lives in both of these narratives & to align myself with work that is both practically addressing social issues, as well as honoring the process of community formation in the process.