January 23, 2005

The Humility Championship

I enjoyed browsingThe Anchoress' interesting Christian site the other day (led there, as so often, by Dilys at Good and Happy), but at first I was put off by her description of herself as “Not meant to be famous. Not meant to be rich. Just meant to be a little voice of reason or rage.”

My cynicism went on orange alert. “What? She’s announcing to thousands of readers how modest and un-self-seeking she is? Isn’t that a bit of a contradiction? Isn’t she just acting the humble woman of God in order to win His approval, and maybe get a reputation as a holy person down here as well?”

You know that line of thought.

Thankfully I reined it in. I can do that by now. Who am I to doubt someone else’s sincerity, someone else’s humility, when I myself have tried for so long to move toward those goals? If she’s gone farther than I have, must I try to drag her backward to where I am? Shall I judge the rest of the world by my failings? And suppose her motives aren’t that much purer than mine: can’t I praise her for an imperfect progress toward the good, rather than scoring her for hypocrisy? Even if she were precisely as self–regarding as I am (and as I assume everyone else to be), why not accept her statement as a model to aspire to, just as we welcome the humane ideals of a novelist or philosopher who doesn’t always live up to those ideals? Even from my own selfish standpoint, wouldn’t I gain from learning to take a fellow human being at her own self–assessment, not doubting, not poking for flaws? And in any case, can’t I assume that she has faced all these issues long before I thought of raising them?

This, my mental writhing, as I struggle to accept the fact that someone I don’t even know has something I don’t have.

Someday I would like to be worthy of the Anchoress’ humility. In fact, someday I aim to win the humility championship. I intend to become the humility king.