Friday, January 28, 2011

False Humility

Ok, so this post is rather personal. But I hope that in sharing, others might be helped to recognize similar failings within themselves and be able to start rooting them out. Also, I'd like to ask any readers to offer a few prayers that I may grow to be humble in spirit, and not just in lifestyle...

As I mentioned in a previous post, Tom and I are renting the house we live in now, and recently renewed the lease for another year. It wasn't exactly what we wanted to do, but we pay so little for this place, and we still can't afford to pay any more than what we do. Recently, I have noticed the same sort of phrases creeping into our conversations. Remarks like, "ugh - I can't wait until we have a bigger living room, so we can actually invite people over sometimes" or "it will be so nice one day to have a backyard we can actually do stuff in" or "I really wish we had a linen closet for all these towels." Just lots of wishful thinking. By simply paying attention to the way we discuss our house, I've realized that we've been fooling ourselves. We really aren't content with what we have. That's a dangerous way to live. But I think in our case, it was an especially needed wake-up call. Because too often, I think we tend to pride ourselves on how well content we are with living in more humble circumstances than we really want to. But see, that's just it - if the whole time we are wanting for more, than we were really never experiencing true humility to begin with.

It's true that money is tight right now. But just because we live - in some regards - in a humble manner (purchasing a lot of things second hand, renting a cheap house in a cheap neighborhood, repairing instead of replacing) doesn't necessarily make us humble. True humility means being not only satisfied with little, but also....well, I guess being thankful for that little that you have. To be aware that you are dependent on God for everything.

And of course, being humble doesn't just refer to having or not having a lot of money. Even wealthy people can be truly humble. But I bring it up in the context of material wealth/objects because I think it's an area in which I sometimes perceive myself to have humility, when in reality, I probably do not.

I have noticed myself too often tempted to feel PRIDEFUL about my "humility" (two words which are exactly opposite!). To actually think I am somehow better than other people who spend more money on things than we do. Maybe I'm being a bit hard on myself, but I wonder if sometimes the comments we make to our friends about how we snagged a great deal on something at a thrift store, or how we can't afford to move yet this year are actually some weird way of almost bragging about how good we can be at "living humbly"? Perhaps some people do spend more than they should, or they do value material objects too much. But that's not for me to judge. It's obvious that I must not truly be content with our lifestyle, if I can't be fully content with others having higher living standards than we do.

I've noticed this recently in regards to baby objects. It's amazing how many products and furnishings are designed especially for babies. And yeah, people could probably get by without most of these. But at the minimum, I think most parents will probably want: a crib, a cradle/bassinet, a changing table, a dresser to keep baby clothes, a highchair, a stroller, a car seat, and of course clothes and blankets. In addition to that, they might want a bookshelf for kid books, any of the moving baby devices: swing, bouncy chair, walker/jumparoo, a baby tub, an assortment of toys and books, and any number of other little things for hygeine, safety, etc.. If everyone bought all those things, and bought them new, they would have to spend a FORTUNE. And what kills me is that a lot of parents do. I know for a fact that if people are willing to look, and willing to accept something secondhand, they can get a lot of baby items for dirt cheap. And every time I see other parents buying top-of-the-line strollers or brand-new matching baby furniture sets for over a thousand dollars, I automatically think less of them. I know I shouldn't. But this is exactly the false humility I'm talking about. I wonder if there's also an element of jealousy to the pridefulness...

In the past few days, I've been trying to attack these prideful feelings in small ways. I had a talk with Tom about the dangers of our wishful thinking, and about how just because we try to save money and get good deals on things we can't let ourselves think less of those who don't do the same.

I also realized that I was never really "putting my all" into my housework, simply because I knew that this house is just temporary. I mean, I've always been good about doing laundry and dishes, and those day-to-day things. But scrubbing out the bathtub good and hard? Dusting the baseboards or deep-cleaning the floors? Why would I want to waste my time and energy on a rental? I'll save that for my future home - a place we own. I've realized that this was, of course, only ADDING to my discontent with the current place. As a wife, and especially as one who has chosen to stay home and not work full-time (thus being, by definition, a "housewife"), I truly believe it is a part of my Vocation to care for my home - to keep it clean and welcoming and comfortable. And I see now that I haven't been letting myself think of this place as truly "home," and therefore have not valued it for what it is. It doesn't matter whose name is on the ownership papers. Wherever a family lives and loves - there is Home. [someone should quote me on that! ;-)]

So I've now been going to town on the scuffed-up walls (with my awesome Mr. Clean Magic Erasers), scrubbing the back of the toilet, wiping down the lightswitch plates...all the little tasks I expected to save for my "real home." Because for now, this is my real home, and taking care of it is one way I can serve my family. And besides, if I don't get into these habits of thinking and acting now, I may find myself never wanting to live up to my duties.


  1. I appreciated this post especially because I feel like I've been thinking a lot about this sort of thing lately. And it's interesting to see another angle related to this issue. I'm not sure if it's the "opposite" side, but whenever we have people over, I often feel a little self-conscious that people are thinking that I care too much about nice things or how our house looks. We lucked out to be moving at the same time as my parents and grandparents, so we got a lot of quality things that they were getting rid of- china, dishes, furniture, wall pictures, etc. and having these nicer things make me feel guilty, even though I didn't pay a dime for them- and I've wanted a lot of times to just donate all of those things just to be rid of them- mostly to simplify. But my guilt stems from the fact that I project on others what I would be thinking, judging- similar to what you're saying. We do get a great deal of our things second-hand too- furniture, all of the kids' clothes, toys, etc., but you're right, where people get their things shouldn't be a concern of anyone else. I've definitely been guilty of "prideful humility" plenty of times. And pride in other areas, which have really come to light these past few days. Anyway, thanks for that.

  2. Great thoughts here, and they really resonate. I struggle a lot with humility, so whenever I actually am humble about something I am also tempted to be proud of myself for it!

    One of my friends one time shared that she and her husband worked so hard to live very cheaply and not be ruled by money, that she found they were still being ruled by money - in their quest to not spend any! I think this (balancing their approach to money/material goods) is really something everyone can struggle with!

    (Sidenote: I couldn't find your email address on here to email you, but yes, the book I was reading was about Elimination Communication! It's so interesting and I think we are going to try it in another month or so. I will definitely write about our experiences once we've done it for a while! If you are interested in trying it, I'd maybe suggest going ahead and starting now - the author really stressed that it's easier to do it if you start before 6 months.)

  3. Good post... I'm really bad about cleaning sometimes for that same reason--"Its just a rental" Of course, "housewife" is not my full time job (yet) but I still could be better about keeping my apartment nice, and hey, it would be good discipline for some day when that is my job :)