Sunday, August 18, 2013

Humility: God's Anesthesia

God has been very good to me. Unfortunately, I have to admit that at times I have the bad habit of focusing on my flaws instead of God's mercy and kindness. Do I really think that my human imperfections matter more than the greatness of the Lord? No, but it can be easy for me to get caught up in this negative type of introspection.

Every flaw looks magnified when inspected up close.

The world becomes a very small place indeed when we focus on ourselves to this degree.  I know better than this but still catch myself doing it. There's nothing that imprisons a person as much as being overly preoccupied with yourself does. When it comes to spiritual matters, self-absorption is downright dangerous.

I'm quite sure we impede the work of the Holy Spirit when we worry about our spiritual progress. It's as if we were saying to the Lord, "I can't trust you with my sanctification. I am worried about my holiness because I don't quite believe you are powerful or loving enough to take care of this for me." Or perhaps we think he'll let us down and that we won't reach the impossibly high standards of holiness that we set up for ourselves with our fallen natures that (of course) know better than God what holiness is.

 In other words...

 ...I am  convinced that our own idea of holiness and God's are different. Very different.

Sooner or later everyone must get rid of the false gods they have set up for themselves...and the most difficult one to boot off the throne is the god of self. It's been a problem since the Garden of Eden and is no less of one today. The apple doesn't fall far from tree. Those who think they have escaped this aspect of the fall of man are deceiving themselves. The saints didn't think they were saints; they understood the depths of their fallen nature and their total dependence on God's mercy. They knew they were sinners in deep need of salvation. Once self has been kicked off the throne it becomes very clear that this is true in our own lives as well. One of the biggest obstacles to becoming a saint is thinking you are one already. The humble KNOW they are sinners but this doesn't bother them to a great degree because:

Humility is God's Anesthesia. Where humility reigns so does trust in the mercy of God. This trust goes a long way toward smoothing the path of life. Though the humble may suffer as much as other people, they are not as troubled by it. Their hearts stay peaceful.

Those who "pick" on themselves are playing God. It's like saying to God, "I know what's wrong with me more than you do." Which isn't true, of course. He knows us through and through. No aspect of your being is hidden from Him. The difference between  accusing ourselves and the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin is like night and day. Some of the signs to watch out for are these:

Scrupulosity - Definitely not of God.
Confusion over sins - The Holy Spirit brings clarity.
Despair or hopelessness - Satan's doing the accusing here.
Depression - This is an odd one. We know there are cases of physical depression so this is a bit harder to discern but depression can have spiritual roots as well. For those who don't normally battle depression this can be a clear sign that we are trying to "outrun" the Holy Spirit rather than waiting for His light.
Frustration - "This is ridiculous! It's impossible not to sin!"  Well, of course. And God well knows this. Even the saints fell.

When we see these things at play then we know it's a good time to step back and reevaluate our spiritual lives. The signs I mention above are good clues that we have not yet ceded control of our lives over to God and are depending on our limited human understanding rather than the wisdom that comes from above.

 When I catch myself acting as my own "judge and jury" I try to put a check on it before I get carried away and  I turn my focus toward God instead. (And I learned this the hard way!) I have come to the realization that it's always best to wait for the Holy Spirit to bring things to light because He is far gentler than we are. Trying to outrun the Holy Spirit almost always leads to a lack of peace and joy. It's important that we accept ourselves, wherever we are in our spiritual walk. God is patient and we should be as well.

No structure of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless, first, the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart.        St John Cassian


  1. Great post! I have missed you!

  2. Thank you, Colleen :) It's difficult to find the time to write sometimes -
    especially during the summer. I'll have more free time once school starts though!

  3. I'm with you here Mary! I often find myself beating myself up for dumb things that I have done. Then I worry and worry and worry.
    In the book I've been reading on The Beatitudes, it talks about the very thing of worrying about our progress in the spiritual life. I have learned that this kind of thinking is exactly what kills our progress! I really is a lack of trust and faith in God's Infinite Mercy! So glad to see you back at writing Mary!

  4. "God is gentler than we are." Such consoling words..and so very true. Beautiful post, Mary. Thanks for that list about "stuff" that's not from God.

    Aren't we foolish to think He isn't more interested in our sanctification than we are!

    I too am so glad you are back!!!!
    Yay! Hugs to you, dear Mary! xoxo

  5. Wonderful post! So many truths. And it is a struggle to surrender ALL to our Lord so he can transform us, so our hearts can blaze with Him. Thank you for your kind help...

  6. Mary,

    I like to think of my faults as an advantage. God surely must give me a lot of grace because I am certainly in need of it. I hope I explained that well enough for you to understand what I'm trying to say!

    Good to see you back on your blog!

  7. "One of the biggest obstacles to becoming a saint is thinking you are one already."

    Guess I am WELL on my way to Sainthood then! ;)

    Great post - thank you for this

    God Bless you.

  8. Mary, I like this line from the litany of humility: "That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it." This post brought that prayer to mind. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You are a great inspiration.

  9. Every flaw looks magnified when inspected up close...boy is that true! I do it to myself and to others. Thanks for this post Mary! It is great...

  10. Hi Monica,
    Ever since you first mentioned the book on the beatitudes it's been on my wish list - sounds like my kind of book :) I agree that worrying about our spiritual progress stems from a lack of trust in God's mercy and it's best to understand that He has things well in hand. God bless!

  11. Hi Patricia,
    I learned that that "stuff" is not from God the hard Then again, is there REALLY an easy way? (I can hear your "no" from here I think.)

    You're right, He's cares more about our sanctification than we do ourselves :)

    Hugs to you too!

  12. Hi Cynthia,
    Thanks for visiting and for your kind comment :) I'm head-over-heels for your poetry! I've been a poetry fan since I was a child and I love reading yours!

  13. Hi Sue,
    That's a good way to look at it! It's the same here - I'm very dependent on grace. Remember when you mentioned something about "a bundle of flaws with a few virtues mixed in"? Well, that pretty much describes me so your comment really hit home.

    It's good to be back on my blog :) I think I must be the worst blogger on the planet when it comes to writing regularly but I don't really know how to fix the problem. When there are other things vying for my attention I can't seem to write :(

    I hope you and your family are well! I was telling Vicky a few weeks back that I'm ready to send the hot weather back down your way. You ready for it yet? (Please say yes, I'm wilting up here.)

  14. Hi Michael,
    Ahhh...glad I could be of help ;)God bless you too!

  15. Hi Anne,
    I can see why we might have to ask for the grace to desire! Yes, I know the litany well - it took me a while before I could pray it AND mean it. Uhm...I probably shouldn't be admitting that on a Catholic blog, should I? True though! Goes to show how much I NEEDED to pray it. It was the "that others may be preferred to me in everything" that got to me. The EVERYTHING in specific (grin).

    God bless you, my friend!

  16. Hi DG,
    Isn't it though? Focus on a flaw and it will magnify 100x! I've learned that when I turn inward to this degree it's time to go do some floor scrubbing ;) That's always a quick fix!

  17. Glad to have you back. I miss it when you don't blog. But of course it's as you say, better to wait for the Holy Spirit to make the first move and bring the next post to the light.

  18. Hi Shelly,
    My brain is malfunctioning lately ;) (Ahh...scratch the lately!) I hope you are doing well and enjoying the summer!

  19. I have been trying to comment on this post for days and blogger just wouldn't let me! Anyway, I love this post, Mary. Humility as God's anesthesia-never quite thought of it in those terms but it is the one virtue that does take us outside ourselves. I too believe that our idea of holiness and God's idea are too different things.
    Thanks for this eye-opening post. This reminder of humility is one I need often and your posts are a whole lot gentler than some of the things God uses to get my attention in this area :)

  20. Hi Karin,
    Lol...I know how those two-by-fours feel! A bit of shock therapy to wake us up ;) Thanks for commenting!

  21. We all have moments of introspection when we say "Mea culpa" more than three times and feel un-worthy of His love and attention; as well as forgiveness. But He forgets our weaknesses and sins and forgives time and again.

    Great post Mary.

    God bless you and your family.

  22. Hi Victor,
    Yes, He certainly is patient! Thanks for commenting!

    God bless you too :)

  23. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing.