Now, being willing to learn is just an expanded way of saying that it is important to be humble. To be humble is to be open to being guided by another; it is to be willing to admit error; it is to be willing to learn. I just do not have all the answers! Most people would agree that the notion of humility is a very old Catholic teaching. Consider the following saying, it comes from St. John Climacus, “Humility is the only virtue no demon can imitate.”
Why does this Saint say this? Well, compare this saying to what the poet John Milton says in his work, “Paradise Lost.” He quotes Lucifer, in his fascinating poem as saying that “I would rather reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”
This saying is quite correct as far as Catholic Theology holds. The devils, starting with Lucifer himself, were all created as beautiful angels by God. But when God created humanity, Adam and Eve, some of these truly beautiful angels became jealous of us and rebelled against God. Angels were created for God’s service and worship, and to serve us. Some of these angels simply would not serve us, humanity, as they regarded us a subservient to them, or at the least, should be.
They were jealous of us.
The result of this jealousy was that they were cast out of heaven and into what we know now as Hell. Pride drove them there. Now when we reflect on the saying from Lucifer that “I would rather reign in Hell then serve in Heaven,” it begins to make more sense. Can we understand this further in a practical sense? Sure, just consider Bill Wilson for a minute. He is the founder of AA, which stands for Alcoholics Anonymous. In this group, 12 steps or guidelines are followed. Now, he admits that all 12 steps are rooted in humility. I am really offering you a pretty accurate paraphrase from Bill Wilson when I refer to him as saying, that the reason people get addicted is because they are not humble. They were not humble. No humility was consciously practiced.
Fine, the alcoholic responds! So, I am an alcoholic because I was not humble! So, how do I free myself? How do I rid myself of this addiction now? Bill’s answer to this hypothetical retort would be, of course, “Be humble now!” What we see, therefore, in Bill’s retort is that the entire 12 step program is designed to encourage the practice of humility. Learning to be humble before God and humble before my neighbor can free me from addictive behavior.
Now there are two other points to be considered in this discussion on AA. One is that the AA program has shown itself to be a time proven program to bring healing to countless people. In my book, that is impressive. The second interesting point is that AA has spawned other 12 step groups that, in turn, have also proven to be effective. Each of them is designed to treat a different addiction.
And the power of each of them comes from the same source. It comes from the practice of humility. Blessed Marie of the Incarnation: “We crush the head of the Serpent when we scorn and trample underfoot the glory of the world, the praises, the vanities, and all the other pomp’s of pride.”
God bless you!