Hubris and Humility

November 16, 2012 — 2 Comments

In my last post, I was tough on the President––I hope I was fair. From my perspective, nothing good can come from his arrogance. I’m going to continue this theme of hubris (excessive pride) and humility in today’s post as it relates to my life. As a prelude, you might want to read the earlier one here.

humilityPlease understand, one should never excuse the failings of pride but it’s a significant aspect of the human condition. I, for one, can empathize with those who succumb to it. And don’t we all to some degree?

As a non-theologian who’s trying to build daily on his body of Catholic knowledge, I realized early in my blogging life that my value-add to the Christian community would be lessons learned from my experiences in business, the military and in life. I’ve been blessed with a lot of them.

They’re also a prominent part of my book A Leaf on Water: An Atheist’s Fall to Grace, which hopefully won’t be published posthumously. Not that I’m sick or dying but getting a book published is like sculpting Jell-O with a feather. As a nobody––a not someone––it takes forever unless I happen to be piggybacking on some nefarious, salacious conduct in my past with a famous person.

I wonder if ____________ would count?

Back on point El Libertino.

My book invites the faithful, faith seeking and questioning to reflect on big-picture concepts that can dramatically affect their day-to-day lives. I wrote my story in the moment with passion and immediacy and I think it will appeal to folks searching for a compelling, accessible and relevant story that has meaning for their own lives.

I frame the allure of A Leaf on Water as follows. Who isn’t mesmerized by a unique story of struggle and ultimate redemption? Who can’t relate to lessons arduously learned? Who won’t acknowledge that times are particularly tough? Who wouldn’t agree that we all strive for answers, especially when we’re spiritually hungry?

My book touches on those questions in a singular, authentic and engaging way (I was ordered to say this by my editor).

At least I hope it does.

Near the end of my book, I had one of those rare moments of clarity. I’d like to share it here––it certainly has relevance to the headlines of our day.

Hubris and Humility

I’m not sure if I’ve been reticent by design but it dawned on me this morning that my story to date has been incomplete. More of a revelation, actually. Everything I’ve written previously, I believe it to be true. Unfortunately, there are things I haven’t said and one fact in particular may be the pivotal reason for my downfall. Regrettably, I’ve accused others of this transgression.

It was an aha moment.

As I see it, my entire life has been an engine powered by hubris and not humility. To put it succinctly, my credo has been that I’m special, i.e., better and entitled, the corollary of which is you’re not. My hubris, my excessive pride, has been nothing more than a form of self-idolatry. And if you ride the rails of out-of-control pride long enough, you’re going to crash and burn.

In high school, I recall telling a friend that I expected to be on the cover of Time magazine. For what escapes me. In college, a professor of mine took me to task for my arrogance and said something to the effect, “Some folks see themselves for who they could be, other folks see them for who they are.” I had talked about doing this or that, undoubtedly something momentous, and my prof decided that enough was enough.

His advice clearly suggested I quit talking about it and go do it because until I do, I’m no different than the hordes of dreamers and talkers who forever fail to deliver. The fact that I never did something earth shattering speaks for itself. Even today, I suspect my thinly disguised conceit and vanity is a turn-off to people who can be discerning as to whom they wish to extend an assist.

As the years have come and gone, I’ve had my share of interesting exploits but I always assumed my specialness would someday be rewarded or acknowledged; that my destiny would encompass so much more. Sadly, it’s been more than half a century since my iconic arrival on this planet and the last time I looked, Mt. Rushmore was still four guys. It seems I overestimated my importance. I wore a Superman outfit as a six-year-old but my lifelong Kryptonite has been my self-importance.

God loves me immeasurably, I know it. However, His plans for me aren’t as grandiose as I would have hoped. Why is that? Why haven’t I been graced with exceptional skills, talents or abilities that could shape the world? Why haven’t I been situated in life where I could positively influence others, for the good of humanity?

Why? I’m not nearly as unique as I’ve presumed. God has willed that significant callings are for others, not me. I should graciously accept the mysterious wisdom of His plan.

Wait a minute! Can’t a simple Christian life be a noble pursuit?

Of course it can. The highest of callings.

A famous Catholic saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, wrote that what really matters in life is not great deeds, but great love. It’s just that I don’t know whether I have the capacity for great love. My track record in that regard is not stellar.

I’ve learned on my journey that humility has an important role to play in my life. This fact cannot be overstated.

Categorically, union with God is impossible without humility. Interesting, isn’t it? I must become modest and acknowledge my lowliness to unite to God. If not, my inflated view of self will always disrupt this most central of relationships.

With all humility, I believe this is an important lesson for everyone.