Micah 6:1-8 • Psalm 15 • 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 • Matthew 5:1-12
The Sunday readings this week have one consistent theme: humility. From Micah's "walk humbly with your God" to the lowly Corinthians to Jesus' good news for the poor in spirit, humility is everywhere. Outside of scripture, I guess all of us can think of the humble people in our own lives, where the beauty of a humble spirit is crystal clear.
What's less clear, at least to me, is how to become one of these humble people. Going back to the Micah reading, it's easy to see what not to do. Even huge financial donations – even the sacrifice of a child, which many of us do by neglecting our children in our drive to help the world and/or make our own fortune and fame – fail to bring a humble spirit. What to do? Where to begin? Turning to the psalm, a beginning answer is found in the advice to avoid taking up a reproach against one's neighbors.
Reproach – and I had to look this up – is an expression of disapproval or disappointment. While the word reproach is not often used these days, the idea that feelings like disappointment should be expressed is often declared. Here – in stark contrast – we have the psalmist's advice to avoid taking our negative feelings up with our neighbors. Surely, one thinks, this advice is impractical. Surely one is supposed to express one's feelings to one's neighbor, gently of course, but still… surely the advice to avoid reproach against one's fellow human is outdated.
Well, maybe. Then again, let us stop to consider what a humble person would do with a sense of disapproval or disappointment. Repress the feelings, sit on them? My guess is no. My guess is that if anything, it would be the opposite. The truly humble person (THP) would begin by noticing these judgy feelings, for it would (and here I am just guessing!) be outside of the realm of the usual way a THP would feel or think about others. Next, the THP would take time to re-appraise the whole situation. The THP would consider the situation from all angles, looking for his or her own contribution to the problem. The THP would look broadly at the surrounding circumstances, seeking to understand how they occurred. The THP would let go of any sense of disapproval or disappointment, refusing to take anything personally, and essentially thinking neither better nor worse of the other for whatever had happened. At this point, if there were a situation that needed to be discussed, it could be raised without reproach. It would simply be a fact to be considered without blaming anyone.
Blaming is a practice first learned at home, a practice content with drawing close to one person at the expense of another. This too would be outside of the consideration of the THP, who would have no need to be on the inside with anyone. If this is so, then the THP must have a solid sense of self – some way to live on his or her own two feet. Somehow, humility is a cousin of integrity. And becoming a THP is a life work that begins with one's family and the multitude of daily opportunities they offer to practice a humble way of life.
Morning: Where might blaming or pleasing others get in the way of a humble life today?
Evening: When did I notice a humble person in my life today?