When I was little, I was always compared to my younger sister. She was the smart, witty, and beautiful one, and I was just plain and ordinary. Growing up with her, she received all the attention, and I was usually left unnoticed. As the older and more mature sister, I tried not to let the comparison get to me, because I do genuinely love my sister and desire the best for her. However, deep down inside, I felt hurt and rejected for not being as good and beautiful as her. I even remember one day complaining to God asking him, “Why am I so ugly, and my sister so beautiful?” After a moment of silence, I felt God responded to me by asking, “Well, would you like me to take away her beauty and give it to you?” Shocked and embarrassed, I immediately responded, “No, please don’t do that, she can keep her beauty.” From that moment on, my insecurity and annoyance of being compared to my sister have lessen because I begin to realize that everything she has, were given to her by God. Along with this experience, I also learn what true humility is.
When we think of humility, many people confused it with low self-esteem and self-deprecation. However, having a self-pity attitude or thinking lowly of oneself is not humility, but a twisted indicator of our pride. Therefore, when we are saddened and disappointed that we don’t match up to someone, or to a certain standard; we are not being humble, but are actually allowing pride to beat us in the head because we are not as perfect or ideal as we had imagined ourselves to be. Humility is essentially an art of knowing who we really are before God, and accepting the whole package with all our strengths and weaknesses. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace because you know what you are.” C.S. Lewis also reminds us that humility is the virtue of not thinking less about yourself but thinking less of yourself and more about God and others. In his Screwtape Letters, Lewis wrote, “By this virtue, as by all others, God was to turn our attention away from self, to Him and to our neighbors.”
In a more practical way, humility reminds us that everything we have comes from God, and that we are only stewards of His marvelous gifts. Like the master in the parable of the Ten Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) who gave to one of his servants 10 talents, to another 5 talents, and to the last, only 1 talent; God also gives us different quantity of gifts and talents. To some, God gives more, to others, He gives less. And similar to the master who wanted to see profits from the talents he had given, God also expects us to use our gifts and talents in such a way that they may be profitable to others and fruitful to us. Nevertheless, God is also very fair, because to those He gave more, more will be expected than from those to whom He gave less. Therefore, a truly humble person is one who realizes that God is the true source of all talents and gifts that they see in themselves, as well as in others.
True, my sister has many gifts that I don’t have, but along with those gifts are responsibilities, expectations, and fears that I might not have to deal with and vice versa. For this reason, it is not fair to compare ourselves with others, or envy them, because we are all on a different journey in our life. Practicing humility is more easily said than done, but if we remind ourselves that each one of us is uniquely and wonderfully made, we will realize that every person is precious and a gift from God. Whatever talents or gifts I see in myself, or in others, were put there, not for my own worth or pleasure, but to be used for God and for others. As Gordon Hinckly puts it so well, “Being humble means recognizing that we are not put on earth to see how important we become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.” So let us strive to be humble, because only then can we realize our true identity and purpose in life.
Sr. Christen Thanh Nguyen