Thomas Keating once wrote a series of guidelines for interreligious understanding which were developed over a series of interreligious dialogues. Amongst the ‘additional points of agreement of a practical nature’ is:
‘Humility, gratitude, and a sense of humor are indispensable in the spiritual life’.
What a great statement! It certainly rings true in my own experience. There is nothing quite like an over-serious piety to entirely miss the point. I sincerely believe this to be true of life in general. Indeed, I’m not quite sure how one does prevent a healthy spiritual life from permeating the whole of one’s life.
I have found over the last years that the conscious practice of gratitude has had a powerful influence over me. For two separate periods I posted something for which I was grateful on Facebook every day. I probably won’t do that again in quite the same way, because the effect it has had seems to have taken root now. Through practicing gratitude I have become more grateful. In the act of articulating just one thing for which I am grateful every day, I am far more aware of the gifts I have been given in so many different forms.
With the practice of gratitude comes a greater sense of humility. I am far more aware of the contribution of factors outside of myself to my own success. As I get older too, and I get know myself a bit better, I am beginning to recognise that humility and insecurity seem to incompatible.
Or perhaps more accurately, it seems to me to be impossible to be truly humble and to attempt to conceal one’s insecurity at the same time. It is only with self-acceptance and a good dose of humour that I can begin to accept my own shortcomings. And with that, I begin to recognise the real giftedness of those around me – not that they are perfect and I am somehow flawed. Rather, that their gifts may complement mine. As I have grown in my level of comfort in my own skin, I have become far more willing and eager to acknowledge the giftedness of my companions.
I realise I am not called to be all things to all people, but rather I am called to be myself, in my uniquely limited way.