Begin now, as you read these words, as you sit in your chair, to offer your whole selves, utterly and in joyful abandon, in quiet, glad surrender to Him who is Within. In secret ejaculations of praise, turn in humble wonder to the Light, faint though it may be. Keep contact with the outer world of sense and meanings. Here is no discipline in absent-mindedness. Walk and talk and work and laugh with your friends. But behind the scenes, keep up the life of simple prayer and inward worship.
-Thomas Kelly in his book A Testament of Devotion
To be human is to accept our humanness, the fact that we are a mixed bag of good and bad tendencies. The words human and humility are related to humus, decaying plant and vegetable matter that fertilizes the Earth, the very ground of our being and survival.
-Keith R. Maddock in the Friends Journal article Humility: The Lamb that Roars
[…the authority of the elder] is found in the humility she brings before souls. Such humility has nothing to do with being a subservient doormat. It has everything to do with the connectedness and unity found in Spirit with others in loving relationship. It is a humility which befriends our own earthiness, our saltiness, and the salt of others.
–George Shaefer in the Friends Journal article What Love Requires: Community and the Challenge of Diversity
Thus, we can see the value of humility, and can discern its true definition: we aren’t humble when we proclaim our sacrifice to the world, or even—especially—if we seek martyrdom, and the social capital that comes with it. We are only humble when we truly follow God’s will, doing so without judging our actions against the world’s ever-shifting definition of “success.” How can we ever gauge success or failure in the divine economy when we can’t truly ever gauge what is “success” in human terms, let alone measured against God’s will for the creation across the scope of kairos, God’s scale of time?
-Christy Randazzo writing in Political Theology Network The Courage to be Humble
Humility is not to be confused with docility.
Speaking Truth sometimes requires bold action.
Such actions, however, must flow from a place of love.
-Michael Wajda Friends Journal Grounded in God
We seek to make our meetings a safe place, while too often what we really want is a place where no one will disagree with us. Friends are called into that safe and secure place held by the Spirit; a place where we can enjoy the differences among us and not be afraid to speak what is on our hearts; a place where we are tender with one another, even as we are open to finding the creativity released by conflict; a place of self-knowledge and humility where God’s power is made visible and can change the world.
We, as Friends, witness to a faith that is in the world but not of it, and which draws its strength from humility and faithfulness to the Eternal Presence. We are grounded by our willingness to wait and attend, by the transformation of our beings in encounter with the Seed, and by taking up the Cross to the demands of the ego and the world. The more grounded we are, the more we make visible the New Creation—a place of justice, mercy, and equity; a place of compassion, healing, and hope. Yet we also need regular times of retirement, to step back from action and seek renewal. Our strength is in God and in our community of broken, tender individuals. This is how I see my faith and the calling of Friends.
-Margery Post Abbott Friends Journal Friends: A Broken, Tender People?
Give over thine own willing;
give over thine own running;
give over thine own desiring to know or to be any thing,
and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart,
and let that grow in thee,
and be in thee,
and breathe in thee,
and act in thee,
and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that, and loves and owns that,
and will lead it to the inheritance of life,
which is his portion.
-Isaac Penington Some Directions to the Panting Soul
Two Quakers lived on neighboring farms. One was Richard Barnard, an elder, who was a war tax refuser. Not able to support military endeavors because of religious conviction, he refused to pay all taxes directly related to war. His neighbor was Isaac Baily, a strong supporter of the Revolutionary War. Baily was known in the area as a contentious man, often involved in disputes with his acquaintances and even with his meeting. It would have been hard to find two more unlikely neighbors than these two Friends.
A waterway ran between the Baily and Barnard homes. As part of a dispute about property rights and water use, Isaac Baily dammed up the waterway.
God’s call to peacemaking and reconciliation was very important to this Richard Barnard. He tried every conceivable method to work out a satisfactory solution with his neighbor. Following the advice of Matthew 18 [Jesus’s advice about how to be a loving community], he went to talk to Isaac, but to no avail. He took other Friends with him to speak with Isaac. The matter of the dammed waterway was put to arbitration; Friends decided Richard Barnard was in the right. But nothing would induce Isaac Baily to remove the dam or be reconciled to this neighbor.
The situation was a great burden to Richard Barnard. Not only was he without the use of the water, but he suffered much inward discomfort as a result of the broken relationship with Isaac. Moreover, he was an elder in his meeting; he was supposed to be a counselor and guide to others. Yet he could not solve his own dilemma.
One day a travelling minister came to visit. Richard Barnard opened his heart to the minister and described his problem. When he finished, the minister said simply, “There is more required of some than of others.” Richard was struck by this response. He considered what more could be required of him. He had done all that seemed humanly possible to find a solution to the problem.
Richard held up the problem to God for direction and guidance. The answer that came was beyond all “techniques” for conflict resolution. It required giving up claims of being right and going to his neighbor in humility and forgiveness. Richard felt that God was calling him to wash Isaac’s feet. The idea was so unusual, he kept trying to push it away. But in the end, he realized he would not have an inward sense of being faithful to God’s leading unless he was willing to surrender his notions and be obedient.
Therefore, one morning he filled a bowl with water from the waterway that divided the two men and went to Isaac Baily’s house. It was so early that Isaac was still in bed. But Richard went up to his bedroom and explained that he had come to wash Isaac’s feet. He described how painful the strained relationship had been for him. He was here now, following God’s leading, hoping they could be reconciled. Isaac sputtered and fussed, refusing to participate. But Richard persevered and began to wash his feet. Gradually Isaac became quiet and let Richard complete the washing. Then Isaac dressed and accompanied Richard to the door.
Later that day Isaac took a shovel to the waterway and dug away the dam. The water flowed again between the two farms. In the afternoon Isaac and his wife came to pay the Barnards a friendly visit, the firsts in a number of years. Richard was very grateful for the restored relationship.
-Sandra L. Cronk Pendle Hill Pamphlet #297 Gospel Order: A Quaker Understanding of Faithful church Community