When I told a few friends and mentors I was working on a humility project–which I knew was about me teaching what I most needed to learn, the unanimous response was, “Huh? I would say you are a humble person Lisa.” Not until I explained the project more deeply would they get it. “Oh. That. Oooh!”
But when I told my husband, Mike, about their surprised reactions and how they already considered me a humble person, his reply–and my reaction to it– confirmed The Humility Project as my destiny. “Well, you aren’t a boastful person…. And there this statement hovered—dawdling in the space around us like a soulful belly dancer. Nothing like those who love and know you best to humble you. My first thought was, “Really, as much as I submit to you; go out of my way to bring you happiness?” And there it was, the great pride I took in my humility.
Growing up as a small-town kid of the 70’s, pride was a constant source of fuel and confirmation (not until most recently did I grasp its contentious and firmly planted roots in my life.) Pride was one’s mojo. Public service announcements proclaimed, “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.” Pride entertained and informed. Semester honor rolls, minor awards and accomplishments were regularly published in the city newspaper much like a daily obituary. My high school mascot was the mighty John Tyler Lion, “The Pride.” Our class motto? “Proud to be the class of ’93.” (There’s bound to be more than a few of us out there who can benefit from a project of getting tough on pride.)
For all it’s charm, pride is our most dangerous and vicious enemy. Keeping us from the love we want, the love we can give, the connection we need, and the truth that would set us free. It’s the most aggressive and relentless bully you will ever meet. Deceiving you that it is your protection, your right, your esteem. Pride has few avengers and many disguises. We often miss how it directs us to violent, internal and very needless sufferings: feelings of failure, feelings that we’re unloved and alone, shame, fear, inadequacy, unhappiness, impatience, contempt, and condemnation. Maybe it has enraptured you as it did me. Pride fooled me into believing pride in myself, my actions, my good fortune gave me the right to an admonishing and correcting spirit.
Pride is the very definition of suffering and the cause of suffering in the world. Pride pursues, wooes and finally binds us in a hell of our own making. When the pain becomes unbearable, we look around for someone to condemn, blame, detach from, or punish. When it is in fact it pride that is our poison, punishment, and prison.
If pride is the way to our hell, what then is our way to heaven?
Take your pick:
What if I told you that in being shown the depths of my pride — inspite of being a happy person who had abundance, practiced yoga, and binged on donuts that in getting curious about the warning signs that I was happy but not whole–I discovered along the way the very definition of love, the meaning of life, and the way to peace that surpasses all human understanding? That when hit a wall with my pride, waiting patiently around the corner of my breakthrough was humility? If I could put it in a bottle and sell it, I could cure the world and have enough money to save every orphaned child on our planet. Since I can’t do that I offer you this project and blog on humility. I wish “The Humility Blog” sounded sexier, but I promise you if you stay with me on it, the fierce badass that it truly is will be revealed to you.
I know we aren’t rushing any lines to sign up for humility–lowliness. If you’re like me, much of your time, energy, and dollar is spent trying to avoid humility, which we equate with suffering and humiliation. But turns out we have humility–true humility–all wrong.
Every good and true thing we desire in our lives and in our world: equality, bravery, strength, courage, love, hope, happiness, faith, unity is born of humility. The true humility that seeks to lower oneself to nothingness so that God can be in all and all. There are many reasons to long for true humility.
First, humility kicks pride’s ass. Humility allows us to walk in a shield of protection where all pride’s bullets fall away. When you’re nothing, what can puff you up? When you expect nothing, what can disappoint you? When you’re nothing, who can offend you? Shame you? Who then shall you fear? If God is all in you and everything in and out of you, nothing formed against you can stand. He bears it all. Humility is our protection. Our paradise. Our power.
Second, humility is our heaven. “Aim for heaven,” says CS Lewis, and you will have everything else good thrown in.
Just so we get clear, I am not a theologian, preacher, or biblical scholar. Nor is this blog a conversion effort. I am a learner and a messenger of humility. Humility can be found and learned from every corner of spirituality, religion, and daily life. My study comes from CS Lewis to Huey Lewis and the News (I LOVE MUSIC); from trappist monk Thomas Merton to social scientist Brene Brown, to Marianne Williamson, Gretchen Rubin, Deepak Chopra, Oprah to Chris Rock and Charlie Brown. All circles of life deal with love, learning, growth, breakdown and connection. It’s a hero’s journey. A spiritual journey. A journey into God. A story of rising strong. The interviews are from people who’ve made me curious about their experiences in humility: a high powered executive who took a sabbatical to serve the homeless, a woman who was in the very vain modeling industry, a stay-at home mother who feels time is running out on her big dreams.
I don’t aspire to define God, only to seek him. All I know is that He (to me God is He–just my preference) is EVERYTHING, all, total. And, I am nothing. When I cease to exist and God is all, I have the keys to the kingdom. I have access to everything good and true in my life. I become everything that can be true and good to others. I can finally stop performing and “hustling my way into my self worth,” as Brene Brown says. Thus my interest in humility is both spiritual and practical.
Spiritually, I want to deepen my fellowship in Christ–be more like him– and have everything this promises to bring: love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, self control. Heaven.
Practically, I want to inherit the earth and victory in my everyday, ordinary life. To be a better wife, mother, leader, friend. A better me. Joseph Campbell says “the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” My pride bullied this privilege away. I want to truly know that privilege and set out on my authentic life’s work and purpose. So happens I believe The Humility Project and this blog is it. I want to know the privilege of being myself and therefore knowing God, and all he wants to manifest through me.
Finally, humility is not a wuss’ guide to giving in and giving up on dreams and success, where you gulp down a big piece of humble pie each day and cease to matter. Nothingness is not the same as insignificance. Humility is a fierce badass full of wonder and greatness where you die to falsities in order to live out great truth and meaning.
In Jim Collins’ essential business book, From Good To Great, in exploring what separates the great companies from merely good companies, Collins found that humility at the helm of leadership, was the overriding thread in the great companies who outperformed their competition by huge margins. Power.
Lastly, humility is heroic. My model and master guide for humility, Jesus, was without a doubt the most powerful man who’s ever lived. He who chose to be meek and lowly, reset time and our world calendar. You might be thinking well, “he’s divine.” Yes, and so humility renders us. Think too on a few examples of those we most revere and will likely never forget. Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Pope St. Francis. Humility binds them all. No doubt, it was (is in the case of Pope St. Francis) their willingness to humble themselves before men that allowed them to accomplish real greatness and deepen the soul of humanity that continues to serve us today. In their humility, they brought heaven to earth.
And, that is exactly what we are called to do.