Lesson: One way to grow in humility is through humiliation. When you are humiliated, you must choose. Either you will react with defensiveness, pride and anger, or you will accept the humiliation and grow in humility.
Humiliation can be imposed upon you from without, or you can impose it upon yourself through prayer and meditation. As for the latter approach, imagine that you had some seriously humiliating sin which was shameful. You kept it hidden lest you be overwhelmed with embarrassment. Now imagine one day you commit that sin and it was secretly recorded, and then later it was broadcast over every major newscast. All your family and friends saw this sin and there was no denying it on your part.
How would you react? Humiliation is quite painful, but what may be helpful is to meditate upon the shame you would feel by having your secret sin broadcast to the world. Before you focus on God’s mercy, you must foster a proper response to your sin. One essential response is healthy shame for what you’ve done.
Reflection: Reflect upon the humiliating experience of all your unrepented sins coming to light for all to see. Let yourself experience the effects of those sins being publicly revealed to everyone you know. Ponder this reality now and allow sorrow and even a holy shame to be fostered in your heart. (Silent Reflection)
Lastly, as you consider your humiliation, imagine that humiliation as a new tool you have been given by our Lord to overcome all your sin. See it as a powerful motivation to make an undeterred resolution to turn from sin and to turn to God. (Silent Reflection)
Note: The final three meditations of this section should be considered as optional. Saint Ignatius is very clear that The Spiritual Exercises should be adapted to the particular needs of the person using them. This is primarily the role of the spiritual director. However, most people will not have access to a well-trained spiritual director who can guide them through these exercises and, therefore, need to be extra attentive to various pitfalls along the way.
One such pitfall at this point for some would be to feel overwhelmed by a sense of sin. Therefore, if you feel overwhelmed, struggle with scrupulosity, struggle with depression or find yourself discouraged, it may be prudent to only briefly review the next three meditations or skip them all together. The goal is clearly not to cause undue anxiety about one’s sins, and it’s entirely possible that going through these exercises without the guidance of a spiritual director can lead to unhealthy thinking and feeling. Please discern what is best for you. If you are struggling with too much focus directed on sin, then try to prepare for your confession now and begin the next section of meditations rather than continue with the next holy hour meditations. This advice is consistent with what Saint Ignatius wrote about in the 18th annotation.
- God, the Creator of All That Is
- God, the Intimate Guide for Your Life
- God, the Goal, Purpose and End of Your Life
- Sin of the Angels
- Sin of Adam and Eve
- The General Effects of Sin
- Introduction to Meditations Seven–Nine
- Personal Sin: In the Light of the Divine Sun
- Personal Sins of My Life
- Humiliation and Humility