Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble(d)

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Don’t you just hate when that happens? After this past weekend’s homily, the Lord made sure that I’d live it out on Monday.

Let me set the scene: I was at the Royal Crest Lanes in Lawrence, bowling as part of a team of Knights of Columbus from my parish. I arrived early enough to get in a few practice rolls, but confidently said I was OK. I’ve always considered myself a good bowler — not great, but decent.

Well, apparently the Lord was listening to my weekend homily, which was on humility. I guess he didn’t want me to just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

Or, in this case, bowl the ball.

I’m sure that I’ve bowled worse games in my life, but I can’t remember when. It’s like my ball was allergic to the pins, especially the head pin. Early in the first game, as I released the ball, out popped one of the rubber finger grips which flew in the air into the neighboring lane’s gutter about a third of the way down.

An employee had to be summoned to recover it. I should have just gone home then.

As the evening progressed — or better yet, regressed — I threw two gutter balls in a frame and managed to get about every permutation of a split possible. A few spares I missed by “just a whisker.” As for the other potential spares, I did my best to make sure to leave a pin or two standing.

My worst score was a 96. The last time I failed to break 100, I probably wasn’t even shaving yet! I’m pretty sure that the Lord was looking at that score and chuckling.

You see, in my homily, I mentioned that perhaps the cross that the Lord calls us to take up is that of being humble. In our day, many of us find it extremely hard to “deny ourselves,” let alone take up our cross. We seem to live the lyrics of the old Mac Davis song that said: “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.”

Whenever I find myself feeling puffed up, I call to mind the story of the great conductor Leonard Bernstein. He was once asked which instrument in the orchestra was the most difficult to play.

He gave a surprising answer: “Second fiddle.”

“I can get plenty of first violinists,” he said. “But to find someone who can play second fiddle with enthusiasm — that’s a problem. Yet, if there is no one to play second fiddle, there is no harmony.” (Found in Brian Cavanaugh’s “Fresh Packet of Sower’s Seeds: Third Planting.”)

Bowling last Monday, I didn’t only play second fiddle, I played fourth (of four!). And that’s perfectly OK. There is some hope, though. In my younger days, I would have been angry at myself or the pins, and my behavior would have reflected that.

Now, I could accept my poor performance with humor. It gave me an opportunity to support and encourage the other members of my team . . . and to notice all the talented bowlers on other lanes bashing the heck out of the pins.

To be humble means to move from an excessive preoccupation with one’s self toward a life lived in service to others. If you need to take yourself down a peg (or pin!) or two, here are some ways to seek humility:

  • Acknowledge your faults and limitations. No one is perfect and no one is great at everything. Thank God for your particular talents, ask God’s help to work on your faults and be genuinely happy for the gifts that others possess.
  • Don’t brag. Ever.
  • Be teachable. Don’t think you know it all or have seen it all. Be open to good advice and change.
  • Be grateful for what you have.
  • Help others whenever you can, wherever you can, however you can.
  • Listen. When in a conversation, resist the impulse to interrupt or to “one up” the other with your “better” story.

I suspect the world would be a far different place if we all embraced a healthy dose of humility — in other words, denied ourselves, took up our cross and followed Jesus.

By the way, if you ever want to see humility in action, head to the Royal Crest Lanes.

I’ll be there every other Monday night until early December, humbly cleaning out those gutters.

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