It's Hard to be Humble

"Before I was humiliated I was like a stone that lies in deep mud, and he who is mighty came and in his compassion raised me up and exalted me very high and placed me on the top of the wall." -Saint Patrick

We celebrate Saint Patrick with parades, silly costumes and green beer. I wonder how Saint Patrick would have felt to be remembered in this way. Would he have felt honored? I kind of doubt it. And yet, after all this time, more than 1500 years after his death we still remember him. And it was his humility that made him a saint.

We don't like the word "humiliation." But what is it in us that actually feels humiliation? Many would say it is the ego, or the false self. 

In Art of Being and Becoming, Inayat Khan Hazrat says that "the annihilation of this false self is the aim of the sage. But no doubt to annihilate this false ego is more difficult than anything else in the world, and it is this path of annihilation that is the path of the saints and sages."

It's especially difficult to be truly humble, because the moment you are aware of your own humility, pride can once again take hold of you. Now you are congratulating yourself for being so humble!

Maybe you remember this old Mac Davis song:

Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation, writes:
Despair is the absolute extreme of self-love. It is reached when a man deliberately turns his back on all help from anyone else in order to taste the rotten luxury of knowing himself to be lost.
   In every man there is hidden some root of despair because in every man there is pride that vegetates and springs weeds and rank flowers of self-pity as soon as our own resources fail us. But because our own resources inevitably fail us, we are all more or less subject to discouragement and to despair.
   Despair is the ultimate development of a pride so great and so stiff-necked that it selects the absolute misery of damnation rather than accept happiness from the hands of God and thereby acknowledge that He is above us and that we are not capable of fulfilling our destiny by ourselves.
    But a man who is truly humble cannot despair, because in the humble man there is no longer any such thing as self-pity.
So how do you know when this false self is at work in you? 

"For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." -Jesus