Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Twelve-Step Cure for Pride-A-Holics

Our Gospel for tomorrow is Luke 18:9-14:

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven but was beating his breast and saying, 'God be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

Humility is something that saints throughout the ages have struggled to achieve. The ironic thing about such efforts is that none of the great saints would think their goal was completely won. On any given day they could fall down and get back up again. Maybe it is in the striving for humility that we become more like Jesus. This is obviously a lifelong endeavor. It is almost as if we are pride-a-holics. Maybe we need a twelve-step program.

I wish I could take credit for developing a twelve-step program for humility, but an Italian monk named Benedict of Nursia beat me to it. And that was about fifteen hundred years ago.

Here is my condensed, abridged, personalized version of Benedict’s twelve steps, which come from The Rule of St. Benedict In English, Chapter 7. Humility:

1. Keep the fear of God always before your eyes, and never forget it, and remember that God sees everything.

2. Seek to know and do the will of God.

3. Imitate Jesus Christ, who, though he was in the form of God, became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

4. Have perseverance and patience in hardships, looking to Jesus for our example.

5. Confess sin and admit wrongdoings. Everyone knows we are not perfect and there is no use to pretend that we are.

6. No task is too menial or small to take on. Just about everyone has to take out the trash from time to time.

7. Respect others even above yourself, never treating them with contempt.

8. Look for things we have in common with other Christians. In the Episcopal church that is easy since we pray together out of the Book of Common Prayer, but the most common thing we hold with other Christians is baptism and Holy Communion.

9. Think before you speak. Sometimes the least said is the easiest mended.

10. Be careful what you laugh about. Some humor has a cruel edge when we step back and look at it.

11. After you have thought before you speak, speak gently and reasonably, without raising your voice.

12. Let your inner humility rule your outward behavior. Have integrity in all you do, say and think.

St. Benedict says that by following this twelve-step plan we are “ascending all these steps of humility” and that we will behave not out of fear, but “out of love for Christ, good habit and delight in virtue.”

In peace,
The Rev. Linda McCloud
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior at Honey Creek

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