In mass one day, as I was praying about something completely unrelated, an idea popped into my head: I needed to write about the humility– the gift— of being disliked. I was stumped! What do you mean, Holy Spirit? How could being disliked be a gift? I didn’t know.
The opinions of others have always preoccupied me. I want people to like me. I want them to think I’m nice and smart and semi-holy and pretty and laid back. I want them to think I’m witty and real and just the right amount of messed up. Messed up just enough to be relatable.
I’m pretty good at reading people and I can sense when someone isn’t my biggest fan. I immediately make those people my project. I have to make them like me. Everyone has to like me. What would I even do if someone got the wrong impression and didn’t like me? Even worse: what would I do if someone got the right impression and still didn’t like me?
Many days end with my replaying conversations in my head and wishing I had said something differently (or said nothing at all). I usually stew and obsess about the situation and decide I need to make things right. I have to set things straight, “I hope they know I didn’t mean it like that. Maybe I should apologize?”
Pride Made Me Do It
I know this is prideful thinking. Pride is an inwardly directed emotion, it’s when you feel pleasure or satisfaction because of what you’ve done. I normally don’t struggle with pride in that way. I normally struggle with it in the exact opposite way. I feel a deep sense of displeasure when what I’ve done isn’t perfect.
It’s hard for me to admit this, but, one time, I called a child in my kid’s class “a bitch” to THE TEACHER. (Yes, I really did this.) I have played that conversation over and over in my head. Why the heck had I opened my mouth and why had that come out?
It consumed me. I thought about it for months after and it replayed in my head each time I saw the teacher. “This teacher probably thinks I am the worst adult she’s ever met. Who does something like that?” (Me, that’s who.)
You know what bothered me? The fact that the teacher
probably thought I was terrible. It didn’t bother me that what I had done was wrong, what bothered me was that someone might think poorly of me because of it. There was a lot of inward thinking there. Something was wrong.
Saint Mother Teresa said, “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.” What am I? Nothing. I am nothing. We are all nothing without Him. Only with Him, in light of Him, do we make any sense at all.
My favorite book of all time says, “We have a thirst for esteem which is never quenched.” Man, my thirst for esteem is so never quenched. I am constantly wondering how I came off and wanting to do damage control when I come off too loud, too strong, too vocal, too much.
Let’s Be Transformed
Expecting perfection (and being frustrated when you can’t attain it) mirrors the sin of Adam & Eve. We want to be absolutely perfect so that we won’t need anyone– especially not God. We think we won’t need to lean on Him if we just do everything perfectly the first go round, and that’s why we are so preoccupied with worry when our ugly shows. We want to hurry and cover it up and be perfect and not need anyone. Maybe, like me, you’re “too much” of something and you spend time trying to tone it down or mask it.
Newflash: we are not perfect. In fact, we are super, duper not perfect. We’re not even almost perfect. Not even almost, you guys. It’s a gift to recognize that, a grace to really believe that, and a call to humble transformation when we stop trying to change that.
Let’s stop. Let’s agree right now. Stop setting things straight and stop masking your “too much.” Allow people to think poorly of you, welcome it, even. Get nice and uncomfortable! It’s a sacrifice and it may cause suffering and that’s ok! We aren’t called to comfort. We are called to hard and ugly and uncomfortable.
What Happens When You Stop Apologizing?
When you stop worrying that you came off wrong, you have more time to focus on the people around you and their needs. When you stop wondering if it would be weird to smile and wave at the woman you recognize from that time three years ago and just do it anyway, you are doing God’s work. You are allowing yourself to be an instrument.
That’s all we are anyway, instruments. So shed your worries and anxieties and just be an instrument. Be exactly who He created you to be. Get comfortable with your flaws and start allowing yourself to be used. You’ll get it right sometimes and you’ll get it wrong sometimes. If you mess up the tune don’t rush to correct it. It’s an opportunity to exercise your humility muscle–offer it up and sit in the uncomfortable, awkward space. It’s a reminder of how unworthy you are–how unworthy we all are.
Your mistakes can be used for good if you truly surrender yourself. Delight comes so easily to us when we do good. Why don’t we delight in the less than good we do? Why don’t we delight when we are reminded of our nothingness–of our imperfection?
“As far as I know, there is nothing more repugnant to us, which has more deathly taste, than humiliation. It is truly a taste of death, since it is what makes us die to ourselves. It kills us by making us smaller in the eyes of others and our own eyes.””But in this taste of death for our nature, there is also a taste of divine life, because it is in the measure that we die to ourselves that we live in God, that Jesus takes a greater place in us.” -Fr. Jean C.J. d’Elbee
Want to read more on this topic?
- Here is Mother Teresa’s Humility List.
- Here is the book I quoted. (And, you can see other book suggestions here.)
(This post was originally published October 2016.)