Sunday, December 10, 2006
Eeyore and the Virtue of Humility
Humility is one of those ever-elusive virtues, to which we all aspire, that difficult and so misunderstood virtue. How can we obtain that which we do not really understand?
Humility is not walking around with our heads down, eyes downcast, shoulders rounded, refusing compliments. That is false humility and is actually more along the lines of Pride. Seems ironic, doesn't it?
Humility is understanding what we possess, those gifts we have been given, and turning any accolades received to God, for it is only through Him that we even exist. It's OK for us to recognize those talents we have, and of course, those talents we do NOT have, and to proceed accordingly. In other words, if we sing well and someone compliments us, it's OK to accept the compliment graciously, always remembering that the ability comes from God. And if we do not possess a good singing voice, it is probably best if we do not audition for "American Idol".
For those abilities we have, we are duty-bound to offer them back to God's glory in some way, and to take healthy pride in doing so. Humility recognizes that it's not "all about me".
Every so often when I consider this virtue and the fact that I can't quite grasp the concept or how to grow in humility, I remember Eeyore; that little donkey, friend of Winnie the Pooh. He has actually taught me a lot by example, and I hope that perhaps he can teach you as well.
I remember one episode in which Eeyore was trying to build his "house", which was a simple wooden structure with a roof to shelter him from the elements. It wasn't much, but it was all he needed. But poor Eeyore, every time he placed the last plank or piece of straw, something came along and smashed the thing to smithereens. With a sigh he set to work rebuilding, never faltering, never complaining, never questioning his circumstances.
Finally, at the end of the story, he rebuilt his house for the umpteenth time and stood in satisfaction, admiring what he had, grateful that it was complete. Then he settled in for a comfy nap in the shade provided by the fruit of his labors.
Just then, Piglet, having been launched into the air for some reason, came flying like a torpedo through Eeyore's new house, once again causing it to tumble down around him. With another long-suffering sigh, Eeyore looked upwards, not even surprised that Piglet had been airborne for some strange reason. Not surprised that his home was once again only a pile of twigs.
His only comment? "Thanks for noticin' me..."
And then he set to work again.
Now, I'm not entirely certain that Eeyore is really the epitome of humility, as he does have the downcast eyes, drooping ears and perpetually-sad face, but I would argue that he is still an example to us all. After all, no matter how many times the same disaster befell him, he simply accepted it and went on. He didn't have a choice, for he needed shelter. And so he rebuilt, again and again.
Eeyore, it can be argued, was completely docile to God's will for him. He did not know why his house continued to crash down upon him, but rather than spend time complaining, he simply accepted the unfortunate circumstances and went forward, step by step. And rather than cursing those things that caused his repeated ruin, he only mildly acknowledged, "Thanks for noticin' me."
This is truly profound. This is what we should all be doing. We should all be willing to accept our circumstances and just move on, rather than complaining. How much time do we spend arguing with God, complaining about our workloads, our families, or the problems around the house? My guess would be that we all spend a LOT more time in complaining to others and cursing about our failures or disruptions than we do in actually working to resolve the problems at hand.
I know I do.
One of the things I tried to do in the past, but fell away from, was to use Eeyore's line whenever disaster befell me. I think that this year, I'm going to try that again, because now I have a greater understanding of how God reaches us. Sometimes He just allows problems to come upon us, over and over and over again, until we learn how to deal with it, until we stop struggling and accept His will for us.
God is looking for docility. Not mindless inaction, but willingness to accept what He ordains for our lives, and through this acceptance, He can move us on to the next step, whether it be a new house, a different job, or a deeper prayer life. God does not just care about our spiritual well-being, but our temporal as well, but this requires trust. We have to trust him, and before we can trust, we have to learn to be humble in the circumstances we find ourselves in at this very moment.
Once we can accept that, then God can work, He can open our eyes and show us the way.
But we can't get anywhere without a little humility, for that is the virtue through which all others spring. So the next time disaster befalls you, turn your eyes and your heart to Heaven and offer a simple prayer of resignation to God's will:
Thanks for noticin' me.