A Good Humiliation a Day

“I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then I must watch my reaction to it.”

Richard Rohr

            I recently heard Richard Rohr interviewed on one of my favorite radio program/podcasts called “On Being”. Host Krista Tippett came across this strange prayer of Christian author Richard Rohr a few weeks before their scheduled interview and she made a point to ask him about it. Krista Tippett admitted to Father Rohr that there is nothing in her that wants to pray to be daily humiliated; and to be honest, me too. I’m not looking to start praying for this.

            Here’s what Richard Rohr had to say:

 No, and there isn’t in me either . . . Some years ago, I started recognizing that I was getting an awful lot of adulation and praise and some people treating me far more importantly than I deserved. And I realized I was growing used to it, that the ego just loves all of this admiration and projection. And a lot of it was projection. And I didn’t want fame and well-knownness and guru status to totally destroy me, and so for me, this became a necessity, that I had to watch how do I react to not getting my way, to people not agreeing with me, to people not admiring me — and there’s plenty of them — and that I actually needed that. And so I do, I still, I ask God for one good humiliation a day, and I usually get it, one hate letter or whatever it might be. And then what I have to do, Krista, is I have to watch my reaction to it. And I’ve got to be honest with you, my inner reaction — I’m not proud to tell you — is defensive, is, “That’s not true. You don’t understand me.” I can just see how well-defended my ego is. And of course, even your critics — and I have plenty of them — at least 10 to 20 percent of what they’re saying is usually true. And I’ll recognize that very thing she’s so angry at me for saying, I really could’ve said it better, and I didn’t use the right word . . . So I try to learn from my critics, and they’re often the best of teachers, frankly.

            Father Rohr’s daily prayer for a humiliation reminded me of another great religious leader who prayed in the same way. I’m talking about the Apostle Paul and he’s how he explained his need for a regular put-down. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12: 7b – 10)

            Do Paul and Richard Rohr need to have their heads examined? No, both men have something powerful to teach us about making friends with our critics and accepting without great angst frustrations, tough times in our relationships, and cold seasons in our spiritual lives. God never wastes anything, not even our struggles. God works on us; or more accurately, He works on our ego and our pride through a daily bring-down. You know the old saying: A humiliation a day keeps the pride away!

            Here’s a link to the Richard Rohr interview: https://onbeing.org/programs/richard-rohr-living-in-deep-time/