Interior Rebellion and the Fifth Degree of Humility

Monday mornings can be difficult. For many, they mark the start of the working week and, curiously, if the weather has been bad over the week-end, the chances are that the sun will shine invitingly on Monday (though that has not been true of many Monday mornings in the U.K. this year). That is when interior rebellion sets in. It starts in a small way, with a little unvoiced grumble and slight downward curve of the lips, and works it way outwards through a touch of brusqueness and non-communicative grumpiness. It can get worse, but I prefer not to trace its course any further lest I be accused of giving you unwholesome ideas.

We all know what it is to rebel interiorly against something or someone. Monday mornings are small beer compared with some of the things that pull us apart. The stock religious answer, to endure, to ‘offer it up’, is all very well when we are in control of our thoughts and feelings, but the whole point about interior rebellion is that we aren’t; so we compound our guilt feelings with a sense of failure, and before you know it, what began as a little grumble ends in narcissistic self-condemnation — and that is the real spiritual danger. Anything which makes us focus narrowly on ourselves, which makes us think of ourselves as junk or failures even the grace of God cannot help, is fundamentally sinful. Yes, we need to acknowledeg ours sins and ask God’s forgiveness, but that is a very different thing from luxuriating in our own awfulness.

The fifth degree of humility which we read today (RB 7: 44 to 48) is less concerned with what we think of as sacramental confession as with the manifestation of conscience, of sharing with another the inner thoughts that drive our actions. It is presupposed that we share them with someone endowed with spiritual wisdom (Benedict assumes it will be the abbot), whose insight will help us get them into perspective. Not everyone is suited for that role, but Benedict stands firmly in the monastic tradition which says that what is brought into the light can no longer do harm. How and when we bring things into the open is, however, a matter for discretion. Just because we are struggling with an interior rebellion of some kind or other does not mean that we can or should blurt out the details to all and sundry or insist on X or Y listening to us now. Even rebellion needs an element of restraint.

The fifth degree of humility asks us to be that most difficult of things, a child in our frankness about ourselves, an adult in our dealings with others. Is that something worth thinking about on Monday morning?

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6 thoughts on “Interior Rebellion and the Fifth Degree of Humility”

  1. Thank you for the insightful comments. I admit that I hadn’t thought of self condemnation as narcissistic but now that you mention it I can see what you mean.

  2. Offer it up…hmm
    Reflecting…Humility:
    I am human. I fail. I have negative emotions. Yet, I was knitted in my mother’s womb, during the Fall; born to experience the Rebellion. Christ.
    Christ in the Garden – in Agony.
    Christ on the Cross – in Death – All for the Sake of Love.
    He obeyed.
    And He didn’t carry that Passion with a smile…he suffered.
    He was sorrowful unto death. — Mark 14:34

    My heart tells me to stop here. And to thank you for this Monday Morning Seed of Grace…

    God Bless you!

  3. A great post! “That which is brought into the light can do no harm” – another example of the importance of examination of conscience and making a good Confession. I’ve found our priests are adept at getting to the nitty-gritty and pointing out where the root sin has taken hold and exposing it, allowing for the graces of absolution to heal. I will keep the fifth degree of humility you write of at the forefront of my mind today.

  4. Thank you for a thoughtful post.

    I have a Spiritual Director who fulfills the role that you describe. Discretion is absolute, but his support and guidance has been invaluable and a has contributed greatly to how I’ve learned and grown over the past 4 years.

    I’d commend it to everyone to find someone who is compatible and to than celebrate the relationship of prayerful trust and friendship that can develop.

    If he decided that he could no longer continue, I know that I’d struggle to find someone to replace him.

    Off course, I and my spouse also talk everything through, so I have the benefit of her pragmatic, commonsense approach as well as my SD.

    God gives us gifts such as these two people and our sharing is in the end to the greater glory of God.

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