What do you do in a monastery?

Aug 7, 2017

Humility does not chain us to a lesser self. Ironically enough, it is humility that stretches us beyond ourselves. Humility does not say, “I can never succeed.” It says, “Whatever happens, I must always get up again. I must learn to live with failure, I must go on.” Why? Because failure is one of the great teachers of life.

The hard truth is that humility is a lesson that can take a lifetime to learn. Yet, in the end, its great reward is contentment, serenity, trust, and a sense of the success that comes from having arrived at the fullness of the self by understanding our own smallness.

Humility is the great liberator in life. No one and nothing can undermine the humble person’s confidence in God. Nothing can deliver us from committing ourselves to the will of God for the world. Nothing can convince us to adapt ourselves to a world whose greed is crushing and whose arrogance is smothering. We will be forever happy with what we have. We will not live pretending to be what we are not, forever worried that our masks, our toupee, our cosmetics and costumes will come off in public. Everything we do will speak of kindness, of acceptance, of care for those in whose presence we stand. We will have put down all the trappings that are meant to hide our real selves from the world. Freed from all pretensions now, I will be honest, open, and my authentic self to all people and in all situations.

It is the work of a lifetime, yes, but it is a lifetime that gets quieter, calmer, kinder, and more satisfying as we go.

An old monastic tale says it all. The disciple asks, “What do you do in a monastery?” And the old monastic answers, “Oh, we fall and we get up. And we fall and we get up. And we fall and we get up again.”

—from Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister (Convergent Books)

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life by Joan Chittister

Radical Spirit: 12 Ways to Live a Free and Authentic Life

The Benetvision Store offers many of Joan’s books for sale. Purchasing them through Benetvision directly supports Joan’s work. When the book isn’t available from Benetvision, Buy Book links directly to the publisher where your purchase can help keep the publishing marketplace more equitable.