Humility key to recalling everything is a gift from God
I just can’t get out of my mind a Bugs Bunny cartoon that depicts the night of the Academy Awards. Elmer Fudd stands at the podium about to announce the Oscar for “Outstanding Cartoon Character.” Bugs is sure he will win. As Elmer Fudd describes the amazing attributes of this year’s winner, Bugs, in his bunny tux, slowly advances behind the curtain toward the podium. The music begins, Bugs stands on stage with a huge smile on his face, and Elmer Fudd shouts, “This year’s winner is Daffy Duck!”
Have you ever been in Bugs’ place? Sometimes we are so full of self-pride that we lose touch with the source of all that we do. We mistakenly believe that we deserve credit for all our accomplishments. We are blinded by our own pride. A famous speaker once said as he explained humility, “I would give my lecture on humility, but there are not enough people here!”
And too, many of us are on the opposite end of this teeter totter: we want to practice humility, so we make ourselves lower than others. We like to grovel and be submissive and quiet, to appear poor and worthless, to lack worth and to tell people that we are good for nothing. We underestimate our contributions because we have this idea that real saints never let others see their good works.
No matter how we try to understand the virtue of humility, we struggle with its true meaning. The dictionary is just as fuzzy on its meaning, and these definitions of humility don’t even come near to what Jesus has in mind. It might be more helpful if we created an entirely new word other than “humble” to see it as Jesus intends.
So, let’s put aside all of that humble pie to get at what humility is really about in Jesus’ eyes. What Jesus has in mind is to be truthful with ourselves and see the facts as they are. The idea that the truth will set us free of false pride and false humility lies at the core of his teaching.
Living according to the truth, the facts, is to know that everything we have — EVERYTHING — is a gift from God. Every accomplishment, all our talents and skills, our academic honors — all of it is precious gift. We need to remember that those sports trophies, the diploma on the wall, the greatest-Grandpa-in-the-world mug, every token of our greatness should bear God’s name on it in place of ours. What is even more essential is that we realize that even the skill it took to work hard and use those natural gifts comes from a divine source as well. That’s pretty humbling, isn’t it?
Added to that, we didn’t achieve any of this alone. So many coaches, teachers, parents, priests, friends, counselors, and so on, helped us use our talents and are a part of our success. To be truly humble is to live a life that puts God squarely in the center of all that we do and all that we are. We understand that true humility recognizes that God had given us what it takes to be truly great, that our goodness and worth are grounded in this divine source. We stand back and look at ourselves and realize that we are wonderfully made, and we deserve respect. God wants us to embrace what we are with dignity and gratitude. We live according to what we know to be true. That is real humility.
I wonder if Bugs got over his big disappointment. Did he ever see things as they really were: Daffy Duck was the guy who made Bugs funny, that without Daffy, Bugs was only half as good. Cartoons are meant to exaggerate life. Yet, there is a grain of truth in such antics. I have had my “Bugs moments,” have you?
Jeanne Hunt is a nationally recognized author and catechetical leader.
This Catholic Thoughts column originally appeared in the May 2014 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.