Humiliation and Humility

I occasionally suffer from urban dyslexia. I just made that up, but it accurately describes my struggle. I turn one way when I should another when trying to retrace my steps. I turned the wrong way out of a gas station in Ohio late one night and added an hour to my drive. When I was in elementary school, I turned right out of a friend’s front door and got lost trying to return home after his birthday party.

Today’s adventure is still a bit too raw in my memory to give you the details. Suffice it to say that it ruined what I was hoping would be a nice family outing. Killed it. I was upset, mad, and mostly humiliated I think. It’s not a feeling I am well acquainted with so it took me some time to identify it, but I think that is what it is—and I do not like it.

I want to place some of the blame on the rest of my family who missed obvious clues that we were not headed in the right direction, but I really must blame myself. They look to me (perhaps foolishly) to lead them. It made it worse that I was hoping today would be a good and pleasant time with something for everyone. Not easy to do with teenagers. But it was not to be. I just mostly looked like a dope.

Those wise in the ways of the Lord tell us that humiliation can lead to humility. I want humility. I understand the need for it and see it exalted in the Scriptures as a high achievement of virtue. But this humiliation stuff is no fun.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise. It’s the same trap as praying for patience. You know how that works—you find yourself waiting for everything. Well, humility works the same way. It seems as if God replies, “You asked for it.” Indeed.

It’s one thing to sit in the comfort of your living room with a good tome on humility and appreciate its teaching. It’s quite another thing to feel like an idiot in front of people you care about. I think it relates to my discussion of the difference between knowing about and knowing. It’s one thing to read about climbing a mountain, quite another thing to get out there and attempt it.

Armchair virtue is easy compared to being thrown in the thick of things, falling down, and failing. But only through being actually challenged can we truly come to know virtue. Only through facing temptation head on and fighting back do we develop the power to resist more. Getting knocked down and beat up is no fun, but it makes us humble. Or it should. It can also make us bitter and resentful.

I know I need to try the trip again, but to face the scorn of, “You mean it was right here?!” daunts me. I need to try the trip again because I need to learn humility from my humiliation, not avoidance and fear.


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