Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My father's lesson in humility

This week I learned that my father still has a lot he can teach me, even if I am a grown man.

The other night my dad and I were at a function put on by an organization that I have done a lot of work with. There was a lot of prominent community members there and I was doing quite a bit of hobnobbing. My father seemed to be impressed at how well respected I was among this crowd. I admit, it felt good to see my dad so impressed by my connections. Perhaps it was the natural feeling of being fulfilled when your father thinks well of you; perhaps it was a bit of pride at human achievement, or probably a little of both.

At any rate, at one point the Chairwoman of this organization came up to my dad and sat down next to him. I could not hear what was said exactly, but I heard her praising me very highly for some time to my father, saying how intelligent I was, well-spoken, joy to work with, etc. After she left, my head was getting swollen and I asked my dad what she had said to him (I wanted to hear my dad repeat her praise of me from his own mouth).

My dad didn't miss a beat. He responded causally, "She says you're an asshole." That was it. Then he went back to his food and left me to ponder his words of wisdom. As I reflected upon it, I saw that it was a splendid (though outlandish) lesson in humility.

My dad is not a very religious person, but he does have the common sense to know that, despite all the politically correct mantras about self-esteem and affirmation, what most people need in this world is not to be told how great they are but to retain a humble attitude about themselves. The world is too full of people puffing themselves up, and human nature too easily allows itself to be puffed up. 

Not every saint in heaven is a martyr, not every saint a virgin, not every saint wore a hair shirt, nor was every saint a great theologian - but without doubt, every single saint in heaven possesses humility. Even if my father was not thinking in these terms, it is neat to see him instinctively know this and, in his own way try to pass that lesson on to me.

Thanks for the lesson dad. If I ever get tempted to think too highly of myself, I will always remember that I am an asshole. God bless my dad (that is him pictured above).

What about you out there? Any outlandish or amusing stories of lessons your parents taught you?


Tired said...

I'm afraid my parents never really taught me anything but bitter things. I was wondeirng if one can make requests for what one'd like you to look into deeper?

I'm in a bit of a crisis regarding my faith. There isn't many things that bother me in the Bible, but one that do is the serpent in Genesis. Is it Satan? Is it simply a reasoning serpent? Is it possessed, is it a willing servant? Did not the serpent then sin against God before man? Does it say "cursed above all" or "cursed among all"? How do we know? If it is Satan, why is the serpent cursed? Was the serpent not cursed? How did it look before? We know later that Satan is described as going about the world, so it is not him who goes on his belly and eats dust. Or is it?

When I read Genesis 3, I really want to explain it, but it seems that every following sentence knocks me down and wants me to admit it just being silly myths of an old semitic tribe. I wish I could believe that it is and take it all figuratively, but Genesis is the fundament of my faith. If I do not know what to believe of that, then the Gospels are uncertain, and if the Gospels, Christ and His Church, and so on. Christ himself says, "But if you do not believe his [Moses'] writings, how will you believe my words?" John 5:47

As I'm sure you can see by my confusion and ranting, this has got me in a twist. I'm at my end.

Anonymous said...

I don't have an amusing story about my parents, but concerning humility I'll say this: my wife and I were reading the lives of the desert fathers tonight and were amazed at how many of these monks would not simply be indifferent to human praise, but would even seek to have a bad repuation. E.g. some even occasionally lie about being fornicators or committing other sins (basically anything but heresy) to avoid having reputations as holy men, and I know St John Climacus even makes it something of a general rule to seek to be despised by others and thought ill of, not simply to be indifferent to their praises or not to seek earthly glories.

It's hard to say what such suggestions mean, or how they would be put into practice by anyone other than a hermit. For me, working in the service industry, I imagine it would be hard to provide for my family if I came over to repair someone's home and hoped to be despised by them. Certainly it's different from normal advice about making a good first impression and so forth. I'm not sure what it would mean for you or me, or whether or not it's really worth writing this on a post about your father, but it's an interesting perspective on humility I would like to understand better.