Do you ever get the sense that our society is losing all sense of civility? That politeness and courtesy are becoming things of the past? Too often you see people interrupt each other or barge in to get to the head of the line, and politicians seem to spend their time insulting each other instead of talking about the issues. The “Freedom Convoys” in Ottawa, Windsor and other cities this year were shocking displays of anger, rudeness, even aggression—so unCanadian! Admittedly we are all a bit testy after 2 years of pandemic, but this is ridiculous.
Courtesy and consideration for others is based on humility, on putting the other person ahead of yourself. But humility has become a negative thing in our society it seems. Healthy self-esteem is good, but when it spills over into self-aggrandizement and pushing to be first, it is not good. It results in battles for control, bullying and abuse. No-one personifies humility better than Jesus. Here is the Son of God, who as Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” Much of his teaching consisted of reversing the conventional social order, with humble people being the ones exalted in the kingdom of Heaven. Another great example is St. Aiden of Northumbia, the 7th century bishop and missionary who founded the monastery of Lindisfarne. Northeastern England had been overrun by Anglo-Saxon pagans who had wrecked all the churches. The king asked Irish monks to come restore Christianity to his people. They first sent Bishop Corman, an arrogant man who regarded the Anglo-Saxons as obstinate and uncivilized and who alienated many people. He was replaced by Aidan, who took the opposite approach. Instead of talking down to the people, he brought himself to their level. Rather than riding a horse, he walked from village to village, conversing with those he met about their day-to-day concerns, and slowly interesting them in Christianity. Whatever gifts he received from the rich, he used as alms for the poor, and for rescuing many who had been sold as slaves.
He founded a monastery on the Island of Lindisfarne, which became a major centre of learning and training for priesthood. Many beautiful illustrated manuscripts were created there, including the famous Lindisfarne Gospels. He founded many other monasteries and rebuilt many churches, and restored Christianity to much of northeastern England. He truly exemplifies the power of humility!
So, when rudeness or bullying hit you in the solar plexus, you don’t have to retaliate. You can take the high road and respond with kindness and respect. If we humbly and honestly open ourselves to God, we will be given the strength to cope. Like Bishop Aidan, we can walk humbly through the world, confident that God is walking with us.