The Power of Humility
‘True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less’ (C.S. Lewis/Rick Warren)
HOM: Remaining Open to Continuous Learning
During the half term week, I was fortunate enough to visit the National Gallery in London to see an exhibition of art depicting St Francis. St Francis is a saint who has inspired artists throughout the ages from Giotto to Anthony Gormley. There have also been feature films depicting his life and even a Marvel comic which features him as ‘Brother of the Universe’.
Francis’ place of origin in Assisi Italy has also become a number one place for Christians to visit. Here, they can see the small, simple church which he rebuilt, now encased within an enormous basilica. There is a real irony in this, because in his life Francis was a model of humility and it seems that the way he is remembered subverts the very things for which he stood.
Following a conversion experience Francis renounced the wealth and status of his upbringing and set about living a simple life preaching the love of God and others. He composed poetry, sang and danced with his brother friars, spoke to animals and worked as a peacemaker between the warring factions of medieval Italy. His encounter with the Sultan of Egypt was notable for the respect the two men gave one another and this has inspired recent interfaith dialogue. Francis continues to be an inspirational figure today for both Christians and non-Christians, for pacifists and environmentalists, animal lovers and for those working for social justice.
Francis’ life was marked by true humility, and it is this that made him able to communicate with all people and inspire their love and affection. This was his special power which made him ’Brother of the Universe’. The word humility comes from the Latin ‘humilitas’, which also means ‘grounded’ or ‘from the earth’. Humility is the recognition of who we are and that we have a common humanity so we should not seek to lord it above others. For Francis, knowing that he was loved by God meant that he felt little need for anything for himself and was free to think of others rather than himself.
Humility is not self-abasement (think of the ‘ever so humble’ Uriah Heep of Dickens!) but is an attitude that enables one to be free and generous in spirit, like Francis. As C.S. Lewis says ‘True humility ….is thinking about yourself less’ and others a little more. Now that is a power worth having!