Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
“It’s not all about you!” Except, it sort of is. You are there every minute of your day. Everywhere you go, there you are. Who stars in all your dreams? You again.
Yet, detaching from self is mandatory for holiness. It is our life-long task, to get over ourselves by following Jesus whose life, death, and resurrection were all about us. Here are ten ways to help with that task.
1) Look at a crucifix and meditate on Christ’s Passion. During a Lenten retreat several years ago, Msgr. Chad Gion of Spirit of Life church spoke on “Holy Forgetfulness” and recommended looking to the cross. He presented pride as not just thinking we are better than others, but the problem of a preoccupation with self. “Humility only comes in self-forgetting, when I am not at the center,” he explained. “Christ lowered himself for us because love requires self-emptying. His death is the model of humility because he did not do it for himself. Christ did not die in our place to show us how great he was but he did it to show us how great his love was for us and through it, he did show us his greatness.”
2) Give up aspirations to star on a reality show or anything of the like. Being famous is not a career goal. Three recent studies revealed that kids now list being famous as what they want to do when they grow up-- Making it big rather than doing something big. Be countercultural; seek service over fame.
3) Step out in confidence, not pride. God gave us all the gifts we need to accomplish our mission on earth. We are complete! Believe it, celebrate it, and don’t take credit for it.
4) Don’t put yourself down. Whether boasting or bemoaning one’s own characteristics, both put the focus on self. In One-Minute Aquinas: The Doctor’s Quick Answers to Fundamental Questions Kevin Vost, Psy.D. warned people to snap out of the habit of putting themselves down. “Yet even wise pagan philosophers have observed: ‘It is the practice of boasters to make overmuch of themselves, and to make very little of themselves.’”
He pointed out that St. Augustine avoided clothing that was either too costly or too shabby because both serve to seek glory. Vost wrote that St. Thomas Aquinas addressed this issue on the topic of irony, explaining that the word irony comes from the Greek word, which means to speak falsely about one’s good points.
“We must be wary then, of a false humility,” Vost quoted St. Thomas as saying. “We need not seek out ways to broadcast our talents to others but neither should we deny that we have them or seek to hide them under bushel baskets.”
5) Go to Adoration Come before him, empty your mind, fill your heart, and infuse your soul with God’s grace. From there, a desire grows to want what he wants.
6) Read the Lives of the Saints. Interesting, heroic, inspirational and more edifying than Facebook. They are examples of God-empowerment over self-empowerment.
7) Embrace Failure. I didn't say to seek it. That would be stupid. Just embrace what happens, trusting that God can use all things for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). St. Faustina illuminates such a lesson on failure. On February 22, 1931, Our Lord Jesus Christ began appearing to St. Faustina, a simple nun in Poland, bringing a message of mercy for all mankind. During one of the visions, St. Faustina brought up a priest who was being obedient to God’s wishes, but his attempts were not accomplishing his goal. “Why are you letting him fail?” she asked.
Jesus explained that failure in man’s eyes is not always failure in God’s eyes. In her Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Faustina reported Jesus explained: “Write that by day and by night My gaze is fixed upon him, and I permit these adversities in order to increase his merit. I do not reward for good results but for the patience and hardship undergone for My sake.” (86).
8) Say the Humility Prayer
9) Do Good Deeds in Secret. Secretly performing good deeds such as donating anonymously, picking up someone else’s litter, praying for someone who seems not to like you, etc. avoids vain glory. “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matt 6:4).
10) Don’t compare yourself with others. Comparing, whether those achieving more or less success is a pitfall. One leads to jealousy and envy and the other to pride. Life is about doing your best for God and for others, not about doing better than others.
In the end, that alone leads to a happier, holier life. We can never be our best while looking over our shoulder at everyone else. God did not plan for us to be anyone other than who we are, so it brings peace as well as humility to simply seek to live out God’s plan for us.