NEW YORK TIMES columnist David Brooks has gotten a lot of attention lately for his suggestion that we need more humility in our society today. We need to know ourselves. We need to look to those who knew themselves and learn from them, Brooks say.
We may thing that humility stops you from doing anything, except hide in a corner away from the storm. Just the opposite, the humble take on large challenges, because they recognize another power at work besides themselves.
St. Gregory the Great, a 6th century pope, was called great for his humble service to the Roman world that was falling down around him. Gregory ends one of his finest commentaries on scripture, called the Moralia, a Commentary on the Book of Job, with words that reveal someone not afraid to honestly know himself.
“Now that I have finished this work, I have to look at myself. We are so complex, even when we try speaking the truth. Let me go from the forum of words to the senate house of my heart, to take council about myself.
I don’t want to speak anything evil or speak poorly about what is good.
I wish my words please the One is good. Yet, can I claim I have spoken no evil at all? Have I spoken less well than I should, perhaps? When I look within, pushing aside leafy words and branches of arguments, and examine my deepest intentions, I know I intend to please God, but has some desire for human praise crept in? Has it intruded into my simple desire to please God?
Later, much later, I may realize this. Often, our intentions to please God are joined by a secret yen for human praise. Self-righteously, we even use God’s gifts to please others.
So in my commentary I reveal God’s gifts, but let me confess my wounds too. Let me instruct the little ones by my words, but let others take pity on my weakness. I offer help to some and seek help from others. As I tell some what to do, I open my heart to others to admit what they should forgive. I give medicine to some, but do not hide my wounds from others. My reader will have more than paid me back if, for what he hears from me, he offers his tears for me.”
A humble man.