The back of church pews
Conversion, Forgiveness, Grace, Humility

Modeling Humility


Looking for a resolution you can stick to in the New Year?  How about modeling humility?

You know how most Catholics prefer to sit toward the back third of the Church?  Not my family; we sit in the front pew.  For one thing, the pew at the front is almost always available.  For another, it helps my kids (and me) pay attention when we can actually see what’s going on.  The problem, as you might imagine, is that the boys behavior is on public display.

As this post is about modeling humility–not perfectly behaved children at Mass–I’d like to make it clear: we don’t have that good-behavior thing down.  I’ve made two-steps-forward, one-step-back progress with regards to Church-behavior, but we are far from having “arrived.”

Two-Steps Forward

  1. I finally realized that growling whispered threats between pursed lips to SIT-STILL-AND-BE-QUIET was probably not helping them to develop a positive attitude toward Mass.  So I changed my language: Everything we say and do at Mass needs to show respect and reverence to God.
  2. I encourage my boys to use the Magnifikid or the Missalette to follow the Readings as well as all the rest of the Mass prayers.  Because participation shows reverence and respect.

One Step Back

So there we are, last Sunday, sitting in the front pew, and both boys are having a particularly difficult time being reverent and respectful.  Their bodies are either slumped jello or, with their ever-growing bodies and gangly legs, they’re sitting on our laps, inappropriately snuggling and being playful… essentially doing everything except paying attention.

And then my 8 1/2 year old starts to pick his nose. Digging deep. Never ending. I smack his arm and fish a pack of tissues out of my purse. He twists it to form a cotton sword, and goes back in. I grab another tissue, whisper-growl to knock it off and pay attention. There’s a back and forth about picking the crumpled tissues up off the pew and floor. Eventually we get to the winning moment: we’re holding hands for the Our Father, and while his left hand is in mine, his right is back up his nose.

All I can think about is how he’s about to shake people’s hands during the Kiss of Peace and then receive communion in-between nose picks.  I squeeze his hand past the point of discomfort, he starts to yelp in pain, and I hiss at him to go to the bathroom, clean up, get himself together, and come back when he can be respectful and reverent.

Because respectful and reverent was exactly what I was being.

When he eventually came back from the bathroom, I leaned over and whispered, “I’m really sorry for hurting you. That wasn’t my intention. I lost my temper, and I’m sorry. I want to help you, not hurt you.”  And with that, he covered his face with his jacket and cried.  And hugged me.

Modeling Humility

When I model humility to my children, I show them how to take responsibility, apologize, and make amends.  Because, yeah, they’re not perfect, and neither am I.

When I model humility, I admit my imperfections, but don’t allow them to be a reason to stop showing up and trying.

When I model humility, I embrace the truth… however messy or embarrassing.

When I model humility, I can invite you into my home and practice hospitality, even though my couch is covered in laundry and my floors haven’t been vacuumed in… a while.

Humility doesn’t mean putting myself down.  It means owning who I am – gifts and flaws, sin and grace – and my need for God.

As a parent, as a spouse, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, humility is the pathway to love in the midst of tension, arguments, and unrest.  Humility is the antidote to pride and resentment.

I’ve been practicing modeling humility for a while now.  It keeps working… in part because I keep screwing up.  Gifts and flaws, sin and grace, right?

“The Back Of Church Pews ©”

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Julie Dienno-Demarest Visit Website
Spiritual Director, Author, Educator
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