>Those who are indifferent to praise or blame have great tranquility of heart. (Thomas a Kempis)
Truly, I say to you, unless you repent and become like a child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3-4)
Self-deprecation in any for whatsoever is a cancer. You must fight it with all your strength. How do you know if you are doing it? This is where pride comes in. Self-deprecation is usually generously peppered with feelings of shame, guilt and anxiety when we are faced with calls to “curb out pride”.
This behavior has nothing to do with humility! My definition of humility is someone who has no pride and thus feels no shame, guilt.
Humility has to do with realism. To be truly humble is to have a clear view of our reality. If you are a good pianist, for example, and have been gifted with musical talents, it would be a grave fault to deny those talents with a self-deprecatory remark (this would be hiding your talent in a hole in the ground). If the reality is that you are a talented musician, then give God the glory and say “I am a good musician, thanks be to God!” that is not arrogance, that is humility.
But, if you have acknowledged your sin (and don’t we all do so daily, at least at Compline? If not more often!?); if you have committed yourself to pursuing holiness (and all Christians have done so), then do not fall into the trap of shame and guilt (and therefore pride) when your sin is revealed (either privately in your prayers, or publicly).
No one is called a Christian because they are holy (well maybe one or two of you). We are Christians because Christ has opened a way for us to be truly holy and perfect, and we have heeded his call, dropped our nets and followed him.
Here’s the question in my meditations: since Christ did all the work, how can we be concerned with our worth? The prideful are slaves to their audience, but we are slaves of Christ. Who is your audience? The prideful are shamed when they do not live up to their audience’s expectation, we want only to hear the Master say “You good and faithful servant.” Who do you live up to? The prideful need others to see them in an idealized way, and go to many lengths to make sure their public image is spotless, we repeat constantly to ourselves: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt 5.11-12) How polished is your public image?
Humility heals our broken selves, and releases tremendous amounts of energy. I mean physical energy. The humble is like it says in the psalms:
It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he causes me to stand on the heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me;
your help has made me great.
You provide a broad path for my feet,
so that my ankles do not give way. (Psalm 18:32-36)
Praise the LORD, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Ps. 103: 1-5)
It is palpable to anyone you meet. The way of humility is the way of liberation. The humble is the only person capable of helping their neighbor remove the speck from their eyes.
So if you feel guilty, if you are denying your gifts from a sense of false modesty, remember this is pride. Throw yourself at the mercy of the Love of God. Confess your pride, “repent and become like a child”, and enter the kingdom of heaven!