What IS humility? This little virtue seems to be the most mysterious and elusive one there is, with many often contradicting definitions depending on who you ask. As I’ve come to understand it, humility is more of a path and not something I check to see if I “have”. We can most easily learn humility by imitating Jesus and letting him worry about the state of our spiritual affairs. Here are some practical ways to put yourself and your kiddos on the “path” today as you go about your work.
1. Cry for help (out loud)
At least once a day, every mom I know has a moment where they can feel the irritation starting to rise so quickly it’s about to boil over into her words, her facial expressions, and the way she is relating to her children. If I am being honest, those moments happen more than once a day for me. Instead of feeling defeated, cry out to God, OUT LOUD, when you are feeling this way. Ask him to “Help me Father to be loving and patient right now…”, or “Father give me grace”, or “Lend me your heart, Blessed Mother”. Let them hear you say it. Let them see the fruits that come, even though they won’t always come right away. Humility is knowing you cannot do this his way, without his help. Show them that you know that.
2. Apologize and share pain
You blow it sometimes. I blow it sometimes. Our kids….they blow it A LOT. It’s just a fact of family life that we are going to get mad, lose our tempers, say ugly things, and hurt each other. It may sound simple but when that has happened, APOLOGIZE. Get down on their level and hold their hands in yours and ask them to look at your eyes (or your chin if they can’t do it or it’s uncomfortable for them). Model how to say sorry, and I promise you, they will do it too.
3. Ask them to pray for you/for their advice
When there are areas in which you are continually struggling with displaying virtue, ask your children to pray for you! Ask them to ask Our Lady to give you more grace and for God to increase the qualities you need. To ask them to pray for you or to brainstorm with you about ways you cold try to “work on it”, confers on them a dignity and a sense of importance. They learn to go confidently to God because Mommy thinks HE will hear them. That lesson, etched on their hearts early, will never leave them.
4. Let them see you engaged in time with God and share why you need it
In those moments (sometimes rare) when everyone is playing happily and are occupied, pull out a rosary, your bible, or journal and pray in plain sight. They will want to know what you are doing as they come to you for assistance or for hugs. Practice going from “Jesus” in prayer to “Jesus” in your child lovingly. Explain that prayer and scripture reading is how you “get more energy” to be the Mommy you need to be. It won’t be long before they are dragging out their own little Jesus storybooks and praying alongside you.
5. Read about the saints with them
Choose to read stories about the saints and the great heroes of the faith with them out loud. Making this a priority and talking about our heroes reminds children that they can be heroes, too. In God’s economy, heroic virtue is not a privilege of the saintly-it is the call on every one of our lives including our children. Make a special effort to read the stories of saints who were younger or close in age to your children, if that applies.
6. Memorize scripture together
If Jesus memorized scripture, quoting in it in prayer and in his rebuttal to the lies of the enemy, we don’t need to be further prompted. “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”, says the Psalmist. Jesus depended on the spoken word of God to help him do the will of God and we need it too. Join “The Hideaway Club” this summer or another scripture memory club and get started working together as a family to plant his precious word deep in your hearts.
7. Resolve arguments with your spouse in front of them
Experts usually advise the opposite of this, but hear me out. I am not suggesting that you have screaming fights in front of your children, but that you use inevitable arguments with your spouse as teaching moments to model respectful tones in the middle of disagreements. Humility is caring and listening deeply to another person’s perspective, while still standing your ground if necessary. Humility is seeking the good of the other person. Remember that your kids are learning how to be married from YOU. Don’t talk to your spouse in a way you wouldn’t want your CHILD’S future spouse talking to them. If you are unable to be respectful, then you aren’t ready for this step, but working toward this goal will teach them HOW to disagree gracefully. They will not learn humility without GREAT difficulty unless it is modeled for them at home.
8. Ask them, “How can I pray for you?”
Our kids need to know that there are three people who “live to make intercession” for them. We know that Jesus and his mother are in constant prayer for the church, but the third person they need to depend on for prayers is their mama. Ask them what they need prayer for and really listen to the answer. Watch and listen to them to see what is important to them and begin to pray in that direction.
9. Play with them
The ultimate test of humility is to put aside the chores, the to-do list, and everything else that presses and to just PLAY. Get down on their level and give that generous gift of uninterrupted play time. Nothing communicates love to them more than this and so it has to be important to us as well. Playing with your kids opens their hearts and gives you a window into their needs, their feelings, and their interior life. If you struggle with this, as I do, I recommend the book, Playful Parenting, to motivate, enlighten, and inspire you toward being more play centered with your kiddos. Set a goal to dedicate 5, 10, 30 minutes of time to play with them without distraction. It get’s easier and easier the more you do it.
10. Say Yes as much as you can: to Jesus, to their requests for time with you, and to self-donating love
In my life, some of my greatest spiritual battles have been over the word, “yes”. Will I say yes to God in this matter or that matter? Will I trust him? Will I surrender my agenda or my way in this area in my marriage? Will I put aside what I want to do to give God what he needs from me? Will I make TIME for my kids right now instead of doing what I feel I want or need to do? Yes, or No? I think almost everything in our lives comes down to the ease with which “fiat mihi!” (Mary’s yes), ushers forth from our souls in our walks with God. This is applicable in motherhood too. As Bishop Robert Barron says, “Say yes to the path of love as much as you can, and slowly you will become the kind of person fit to live in heaven”.