By Father Jacob Dankasa
Special to The Texas Catholic
I was reflecting on the text of 1 Peter 5:5-7, and I found it a very compelling lesson on humility and pride:
“And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: “God opposes the proud and bestows favor on the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” (I Pet. 5:5-7)
Reading this passage, I had to stop and think deeply on the striking admonition to “clothe yourselves with humility.” This metaphor of clothing with humility is deeper than it appears at first glance. Let me use the analogy of a naked person in public. When we see a person standing stark naked in a public area, the first thing that comes to mind is to wonder if the person is mentally unstable. Whatever the problem is, we believe that there is something wrong with the person. And of course someone is going to call 911, because our expectation is that a normal person should have some form of covering, at least of the private area, in a public space. Anything other than that triggers a negative reaction in the mind.
Looking at it in another way, when we want to describe someone or point out someone, or maybe even compliment someone, in many cases we use the clothing they are wearing to make our description more precise: the man with the red shirt and brown pants, the woman with the long gown, the girl in the blue dress, etc. So when St. Peter uses the term “clothe” to describe humility, in a sense he is saying that clothing is a very good metaphor for describing a virtue. Since you stand the chance of being described by what you put on, your life can also be described by the virtue you have put on, that you live by. In other words, humility is one of the very first identifying features of a person: humility – or the lack of it — reveals the true identity of a follower of Christ.
The opposite of humility is pride. When we are proud, we are like a naked person in public. As a naked person in public draws attention to himself and makes people think that something is wrong with him or her, we draw negative attention when we are proud. Pride brings some sense of abnormality in us, just as nakedness does. Pride exposes our true selves and lowers people’s perception of us, and it debases us before God. It was pride, the desire to become like God, that made our first parents Adam and Eve discover their nakedness. Pride makes us insecure and suspicious of everyone around us, and this is a recipe for disaster in human relationships.
When, on the other hand, we clothe ourselves with humility, we can live and co-exist with other people and relate with them effectively. Humility is not weakness; rather it’s a strength — anyone who has it must have won the ultimate battle against the might of pride!
Let us clothe ourselves with the virtue of humility in order to cover the nakedness that separates us from God and our fellow humans.
Father Jacob Dankasa is a parochial vicar at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney and a regular contributor to The Texas Catholic.