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Humility vs. Humiliation: The Lessons of Christ and St. Francis

March 20, AD2017

crucifixion, jesusI disagree with those who describe Our Lord’s Passion experience as humiliating, because I believe that they are merely projecting their perception of that situation on him.

I can understand Our Lord’s embarrassment at being placed on public display nearly naked, given his great sense of purity. I can even understand Our Lord’s humanity being embarrassed at being publicly displayed in such a sad state. What I cannot accept, no matter how I try, is that Our Lord truly felt humiliated by his experience in sacrificing himself for us. I believe that Christ embraced his cross as the vehicle both to fulfill his mission of redemption and in order to obey his Father’s Will. How can anyone who truly loves God and wishes to be with God ever feel humiliation in serving Him? Certainly not Our Blessed Lord and probably none of us, sadly defective creatures that we may be. We may be disloyal, inconsistent sinners and cowards, but I do not think that most of us are utterly ashamed to follow Christ. We would likely be scared to death to be facing anything like he did. We may even run for the hills as cowards tend to do. However, we would fail Our Lord ( again ) out of fear not shame.

I think that most writers and observers are projecting their perception of Christ’s situation into their description of it. They would be humiliated in such a situation, and are sure we would, so they describe Our Lord’s experience as humiliating. Humiliating to whom? Our Lord? I somehow cannot accept that Our Lord would ever find serving His Father humiliating.

The Truth About Humiliation

Humiliation is an external thing. Other people humiliate us. We feel humiliated by what they say or think of us. I cannot feel humiliated in a deserted island. It is only in the context of other’s perception of me that I may feel humiliated. I think that humiliation is the gap between how I want to be seen and how I think people are presently seeing me. In that vein, one must ask if Our Lord wanted to be seen as some powerful, rich, adorned, successful, respected king. I suggest not. I think that he wanted to be seen as the example for us to follow, and our guide to saving ourselves and others. My experience is that humiliation is more prevalent in the insecure, for such people care too much what others think of them and too little about what they bring to the table apart from other’s opinions and views. Would anyone in their right mind describe Our Lord as insecure? If anything, he is the most secure person that ever walked the earth. He knew exactly who he was and what he was about. He knew precisely what he was not and what he did not want to be. He had a laser sharp sense of his mission and his purpose. No insecurity there to speak of by my book.

Humility: Something Very Different Indeed

Unlike humiliation, humility is an internal thing. Humiliation is created when I let external sources make me feel inferior, devalued, disrespected, and ashamed. Humility, on the other hand, is created when my heart, soul, and mind are not obsessed with myself but with God and others. I do not have to win every argument, be correct all the time, get the last word in, or be the best in the room because I understand that all that matters is serving and loving God and others. All else is worthless waste. Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother were models of humility because they lived to serve and love God and others and nothing else. While their humility is incredible, it only seems so to us because we cannot imagine climbing down from our pride and self-importance on such a dramatic and consistent level, despite the fact that we are mere specks in comparison to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. If only our ridiculous sense of self-importance had an ounce of reality and accuracy, so much easier would our humility reside!

St. Francis: Another Victim of Our Projection

We have all read how St. Francis was humiliated or humiliated himself in public in front of his father upon removing his clothes in rejecting his father’s materialism, yet this is just another one of our projections. We cannot imagine anything more humiliating than being naked in front of the whole town. We cannot fathom the shame the father felt upon seeing his son Francis act this way. The father truly felt humiliated, but only because he was seeing things with earthly eyes and values. Francis was anything but humiliated; I would say overjoyed and free at last is more accurate.

Be So Humble that You Are Never Humiliated

If we develop true humility in the service and love of God and others as Christ, Our Lady, and Francis did, we will never feel humiliated because we will not care what this world thinks about anything we do. To have heavenly humility is to truly be freed of these world’s petty and superficial concerns which are the root of humiliation.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Gabriel Garnica has been an educator for over 30 years and a Catholic and conservative writer for over half that time. He is presently a columnist for RenewAmerica.us and FamilySecurityMatters.org and is proud and honored to bring his contributions to CatholicStand. Although he is both a licensed attorney and has a counseling degree, Gabriel is excited about his new career effort as a life and business coach. He shares his insights and perspectives on faith at Deus Solus and hopes to add a life coaching blog and website in the near future as well. Gabriel has a J.D. from New York University and a M.S. Ed. in counseling from Fordham University.

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  • Mark McCann

    Gabriel, wonderful article! Back when I worked in radio, I wrote a couple Passion Plays. One was the witness of one woman looking at the Crucifixion and the other was told by those who were present. In both dramas, I presented Jesus as the humble but joyful Savior who willingly accepted His cross, knowing it was for humanity. I never saw humiliation – only love. I can’t imagine that at any time Christ’s perfection, joy, and love were in any way diminished. There have certainly been times I’ve felt humiliated, but never when I was following the Savior’s call to carry my cross! Thank you for such an insightful and deep piece! God bless!

  • smk629

    Well stated, Mr. Garnica. This is something I have struggled with for some time. In a way, humiliation is a projection of our pridefulness, because we are primarily concerned about damaging our reputations and appearance to others above all else. There is never any humiliation if we are doing God’s will. We are humble when we truly serve God.

    Peace to all here – Susan, ofs

    • GG

      Thank you so much Susan. Your input means a lot to me. Glad you liked the piece and God Bless!