Tag Archives: Humility

Part 6: Grant Me The Grace To Desire It

The last section of The Litany of Humility takes the desires from the first section and shows that it is not enough to be delivered from them.  Once we are delivered from a self centered desire we could easily slip into a state of self satisfaction and miss the point.  We are delivered for a reason beyond seeking our own comfort.  We are delivered for service to others.

A true servant places a priority on the needs of those being served.  We all have experienced good and bad service at a restaurant or some other establishment.  Some servers put their hearts into it and leave their customers feeling well cared for.  Other servers just go through the motions to get a paycheck.  They really don’t care about customers.  Christians are called to service to God and to others.  Are we placing God and others in a place of priority?  Or, are we placing priority on making sure we are comfortable?  Godly humility seeks to be delivered from certain desires and fears in order that we may set self aside and prioritize others.

For example, “Lord Jesus, deliver me from the desire to be esteemed and the fear of being forgotten so that others may be esteemed more than I.”  All three parts go together.  The humility is a prerequisite for Christian service.  None of this can be accomplished apart from God’s empowering grace.  Therefore, the litany includes, “Grant me the grace to desire it.”  We won’t even want to seek humility without the prompting of God’s grace.  We must pray for the desire to even begin to seek true humility because it isn’t natural.  True humility is spiritual.

Part 5: The Fears

A recurring theme in Scripture is, “Be not afraid” or “Fear not.”  Yet, fear is often a powerful driving force in our lives.  Fear can often be traced to one or more of the desires the Litany of Humility asks deliverance from.  If any given desire does not have dominion over us, the fear of not meeting that desire will fade as well.

For example, consider my own experience mentioned earlier of being picked last to be on a team.  When my desire of being preferred was not satisfied, I felt humiliated.  The fear of humiliation and the desire of being preferred dovetail together.  If I am delivered of the desire, I am delivered of the fear and vice versa.  If I have no fear of being humiliated, I won’t have the desire of being one of the early picks for the team.  If I’m unconcerned about when I am chosen, I’ll have no fear of any humiliation by being picked last.

The fears mentioned in the litany, like the desires, place a focus on self interest.  Self preservation is human nature.  What the prayer seeks is a spirituality that transcends the natural human tendencies.  We are not simply animals motivated by natural drives and instincts.  We are both material and spiritual, a trait not shared by the animals (material beings) or the angels (spiritual beings).  We are created to bridge the gap between the natural and the spiritual (and will continue as such in the resurrection).  We are unique.  Therefore, it is not asking too much of us to seek a spiritual holiness that transcends mere natural drive and instinct.  In other words, we are designed to confront our natural fears with spiritual solutions.  This also means we can seek and find the ability to regard others over and above self rather than life being “all about me.”

Rather than address each fear in the prayer one-by-one, suffice it to say that fear is an obstacle to humility.  Fear prevents us from truly knowing God and placing complete trust in Christ.  Some fear is good and healthy, like the kind of fear that prevents one from stepping in front of a moving bus.  However, much of our fear gets in the way of knowing God and knowing each other as God would have us.  Our fear prevents true humility and godly love.

So, what fears are keeping me from true humility?  Deliver me from the fears, Jesus.  You who intimately knows both our material and our spiritual being, deliver us.

Part 4: The Desire To Be Preferred, Consulted and Approved

Pick me!  Pick me!  Don’t pick them!  Don’t pick them!  The desire of being preferred means that others must be passed over to make room for me, and I’m happy about it.  It is the competitive streak of the sore loser.  It manifests itself in poor sportsmanship and arrogance.  It is quite possible, however, for an accomplished athlete to be competitively successful while simultaneously exhibiting humility.  Pride and arrogance must not be confused with confidence.

There have been times in my life when being picked last to be on a team was disappointing and humiliating.  But it was the wrong kind of humility I was experiencing.  I was experiencing a self-defilement of sorts, feeling sorry for myself and placing my worth in the hands of other people rather than in God’s hands.  In other words, being picked last hurt my pride, and I thought I needed that pride to be worth something.  Additionally, focusing on my wounded pride caused my performance in the game to suffer.  It was a kind of self fulfilling prophecy.  But even if I wasn’t at all skilled in that game it had nothing to do with my worth in God’s eyes.

The desire to be consulted is another challenge.  I’m a therapist.  I’m supposed to want people to come to me for consultation.  I’m supposed to be good at what I do and take pride in my work.  So, why get rid of my desire to be consulted?  I think it has more to do with wanting to be a know-it-all.  No one knows everything.  Even consultants need to consult with others for information and continuing education.  I may have lots of answers, but only God has all the answers.  An unhealthy desire to be consulted makes it hard to say, “I don’t know.”  The person who knows it all has nothing to learn, and that can be very dangerous.

The desire to be approved is another attempt at stroking the ego.  Like the other pitfalls in the prayer, approval can be just another way of focusing on self at the expense of others.  There have been occasions when people approved of me just to be manipulative.  “Buttering people up” is a great way to influence them.  Be wary of people’s approval.  Sometimes they just want something from you.  The desire for approval can backfire very quickly.  It can also become addictive.  Know that you are loved by God regardless of other people’s approval.  There will always be people that disapprove of you.  God may disapprove of some of our actions, but God never disapproves of us.  God is our biggest cheerleader.

From the desire to be preferred, consulted or approved, deliver me, Jesus!

Part 3: The Desire To Be Extolled, Honored or Praised

In other words, deliver me from the desire for lots of attention, even posthumously.  In the movie Troy, Achilles (Brad Pitt) wants nothing more than for his name to be remembered for eternity.  He is the ultimate fighter.  He fears no one and nothing…except being forgotten.  Prior to facing an opponent twice his size, Achilles is told by a young boy, “I wouldn’t want to fight him!”  Achilles says to the boy, “That is why no one will remember your name.”  Theologians call it the fear of non-being.

We desire recognition because it validates our very existence.  What good are we unless someone else believes we are good for something?  We often feel we need an audience to offer some applause for who we are.  Such validation can become addictive.  It can also replace an awareness that our true goodness resides in having been created by God, not in our accomplishments.

Accomplishments are good, of course.  They are only possible because of the gifts and talents God provides.  Humility is not about pretending we have no gifts.  We’re allowed to recognize and appreciate the talents and gifts God gives us.  We can use them in constructive, loving ways.  That’s gratitude.  However, if the praise we receive becomes the primary motivation for using our gifts and talents, we are off track.  We have constructed a golden calf with which to replace God as our soul reason for being.  Rather than trusting in God, we have given in to the fear of non-being.  This robs us of true joy and replaces it with fleeting emotions.

From the desire of being extolled, honored or praised, deliver me, Jesus.

Part 2: The Desire of Being Loved

Don’t we all desire to be loved?  Love is a good thing, right?  Why would anyone want to be delivered from this desire?  The prayer is not asking for deliverance from love, but from an unhealthy desire to be loved.  People do all sorts of destructive things to themselves and to others in an attempt to be loved.  I can recall times from my own life where this desire got me into big trouble, including choosing the wrong people to attach to and doing bad things in order to feel their so-called love.

There is nothing wrong with loving and being loved by others.  The problem is that sometimes we use other human beings to try and fill a void that can only be satisfied by complete trust in God.  Also, the desire to be loved can supersede the desire to love.  In other words, it becomes all about me.  I see this frequently in my clients when their relationships revolve around the question, “What’s in this marriage for me?”  I also see it in church goers when the emphasis becomes, “Jesus is mine!” or, “What can God do for me?”

Even the desire to be loved by God can become an idol.   God doesn’t want us sitting around soaking up his love.  We are called to take that love and spread it around to others, not hoard it for ourselves.  The goal of a Christian is not to search around looking for a church where we feel the most loved and accepted.  The goal is to love as Christ loves.  Look at the cross.  Jesus empties himself when he loves.  Jesus said, “Pick up your cross and follow me,” not “Go find the softest pew and most accepting congregation.”  Giving love is the goal.  A desire to be loved gets in the way of giving love.  Imagine Jesus throwing down his cross and saying, “Forget this, you people are too mean and you’re not loving me.  I’m out of here!”

From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus, so that I may love as you love.  This is not easy.  I need your grace.

Part 1: The Desire Of Being Esteemed

From the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with being esteemed by others.  We all enjoy that feeling and validation.  The prayer is for deliverance of the desire to seek out such esteem as a validation of one’s worth and identity.  Even the desire for self esteem can become a pursuit that distracts one from trusting in God.  We live in a society that clamors for esteem, particularly self esteem.  We risk making idols of ourselves.

In one episode of “The Simpsons” Bart says grace before the family meal.  His prayer is, “Thanks for nothing God, because we earned it all ourselves.”  The allure of celebrity is another example of esteem gone haywire.  People practically worship celebrities, and the desire to be a celebrity is a common one.  The show “American Idol” is popular.  A show called, “American Humility” would likely not do so well.

It is not the esteem of others or self that gives us our worth and value.  It is God.  Every success, every breath and every heartbeat is possible only because of God.  If others esteem us, we can hope it is because we have exhibited qualities that in some way point to the beauty of God, and in that we can rejoice.  But we must not desire esteem for its own sake.  We must do our best with our gifts and talents so that others can see God, not so that we can be esteemed by others or even by ourselves.  Humility is not easy, but it is a source of true joy.  We need God’s grace.  We can’t do it under our own power.

A Walk Through The Litany Of Humility: Series Intro

One of the most challenging prayers (for me at least) is The Litany of Humility.  Humility that is both psychologically and spiritually healthy is a delicate balance to find.  There is a danger of embracing masochism rather than godly humility.  Another danger is false humility where one actually takes pride in one’s humble ways.  The goal is complete trust in God rather than in our own psychological defenses.  Trust in God allows us to resist the need for acceptance or approval of others, to resist the need to constantly avoid being hurt by others and to seek the good of others in all things, even at our own expense.  The goal is not self-defilement but a self fullfilment only achievable by placing confidence in God.

My intention for the next several blog entries is to walk through the Litany of Humility and comment on each part of the litany as it pertains to real life applications in my own spiritual journey and daily living.  I may combine some parts into one blog post.  We’ll see how it develops.

Already I am reflecting on my own desire to do this series, as my motivation could be a bid for the approval of others rather than a humble spiritual exercise.  Since we are called by God to do our best with our gifts and talents, I suppose it all depends on my attitude.  As long as I do this for the edification of others while using my writing talents, maybe there is hope for me.  I know that I very much need this prayer.

Below is the Litany of Humility, and here is a wonderful song by Daniele Rose to accompany it:

 

Litany of Humility

RafaelCardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.From the desire of being loved… From the desire of being extolled … From the desire of being honored … From the desire of being praised … From the desire of being preferred to others… From the desire of being consulted … From the desire of being approved … From the fear of being humiliated … From the fear of being despised… From the fear of suffering rebukes … From the fear of being calumniated … From the fear of being forgotten … From the fear of being ridiculed … From the fear of being wronged … From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I … That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease … That others may be chosen and I set aside … That others may be praised and I unnoticed … That others may be preferred to me in everything… That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

(More info on the psychological aspects of the prayer can be found here.

What Do You See In The Mirror?

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”  I can’t remember where that quote came from, but I like it.  It dovetails nicely with “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  When Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment, he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

There is a kind of “worm theology” that emphasizes human depravity to the extreme.  Such theology paints an image of humanity being no better than worms in God’s eyes until we are saved by Christ.  Once saved, we become “covered” in the righteousness of Jesus, and God then sees Jesus when he looks at us instead of seeing lowly worms.

Society and the media pressure us with “you’re-not-good-enough” messages.  Or, the message is, “You have to be better than others, so look out for number one.”  Arrogance and self-abasement seem to be popular choices.

Since we are sinful creatures, God certainly does not like to look upon our fallen natures.  However, with grace being greater than all our sin, I’m inclined to believe that God views us as creatures worth redeeming.  His desire is to actually make us clean, not just cover up the muck.  I don’t think he sees worms.  I think he sees his beloved, wounded creatures in need of healing.  Evil has done a number on us, because we allowed it to.

If we are honest, we will see flaws when we look in the mirror.  We will see our sins and our wounds.  We also need to see people worth redeeming when we look in the mirror.  When we shed the self-centered “chains” of being a “complete worm” we are able to focus our attention away from self and onto others.  Then, we see our neighbors and ourselves the way God sees us.  Then we can love our neighbors as ourselves, the way God does.  We are all wounded.  We all need healing.  We can’t save ourselves.  We can, however, point each other to the Great Physician who loves us and wants to heal us.  His grace and love can flow through us, but the “on switch” is our own humility.

No one gets to Heaven by earning it.  We can’t earn it.  But we are supposed to be there.  God wants us there with him.  That’s why we were created.  Realizing and accepting that fact is a humbling experience.  We are not worthy of being there, but we are worth being there.  God wants to remove the muck so we can enter the purity of Heaven, but he won’t force cleanliness upon us and violate our free will.  We tend to prefer playing in the muck, even though it doesn’t provide us with the real satisfaction we yearn for.  So we are offered chance upon chance to respond to God’s grace.

Self-centeredness can work in different ways.  Arrogance is placing self above others.  Abasement or degradation makes everyone else more valuable than self.  Either way, time is spent primarily thinking of self.  “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a balance that gives everyone “God-esteem.”  If you don’t love yourself the way God does, you’ll be hard-pressed to love others the way God does (especially your enemies).  Humility is the way in and the way out of your true self.  Humility is the first step towards God and true contentment.