What a Pile of Dry Leaves Has to Teach Us About Humility

Plain Talk on Marriage by Dr. John Rosemond
April 19, 2018
Founder’s Quote
April 20, 2018

By Msgr. Charles Pope • April 18, 2018

We tend to think that happiness is the result of the right circumstances or externalities. If I just have enough money, or live in this place or that, or if I can arrange just the right sort of pleasures, or be with just the right people, I will be happy.

Of course, this doesn’t really work. But it is a little lie we like to tell ourselves. By it we excuse a lot of our greed and excessiveness. It is also at the heart of most marketing and sales pitches.

Deep down we know better; we know that happiness is an inside job. We know people who have much and are unhappy; we know people who have little and are happy; and we know every combination in-between.

It is often the same with what irritates and vexes us. There is an insight from the desert fathers that reminds us of our own role in being irritated by others. It is paraphrased by Augustine Wetta in his book Humility Rules:

If you are upset when someone insults you, don’t put the blame on him. You were a pile of dry leaves; he was just the breeze that blew you over. (From Abba Dorotheos of Gaza)

Yes, much of the pain from insult, misunderstandings or irritation originates from within, not from without. If someone can push my buttons, how is it that they are there to push? That is my part of the problem.

It is true that others should not insult me, but it is also true that many of us today are too easily insulted. In proud times of strident opinions and identity politics we become thin-skinned and lack the humility to have a sense of humor about ourselves. Like dry leaves we are easily “blown away” by the merest look or remark.

We do well to look within for deepest causes of our anger and hurt. The breezes of insult and injustice will surely blow, and though they should not, we can do our part by endeavoring to be more substantial than a pile of dry leaves.