There’s a really powerful history, dear brothers, concerning the facade of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This is the spot where we commemorate the exact space where the Lord Jesus entered the visible world “in the flesh.” An ancient doorway still stands there and it’s just under 5 feet high. Originally, the tiny framed portal was supposed to prevent people on horseback from entering the sanctuary in order to desecrate the holy place. But on another level, it invites those who enter to humble themselves like Jesus did, stooping low in order to enter into the mystery of God’s crazy love for us.
Humility Is "Manly"
Humility may be the least understood of the virtues. It's gotten some bad associations over the years. Maybe we connect it unfairly to humiliations? Eating humble pie... Somehow being ashamed of something, even something good... We see a guy staring at the floor, hands in pockets, foot kicking a few stones on the ground while he mutters “aw shucks” or something to that effect. The disordered synonyms we might associate with humility are things like shyness, withdrawn-ness, pushover, doormat, submissive, unassertive, and self-deprecating. We can think that humility means putting ourselves at the end of the line and letting everyone else go first because, well, I’m so unworthy. Man, that would make you really late for work.
As men, we can think this is an affront to being a man. A man should be confident, strong, and assertive, right? He should have pride, right? And isn’t that the opposite of humility? Let’s get etymological for a second. What’s the meaning of this word? Getting to the root meaning of a word can clear away the confusion, and boy have words been confused, coerced, and corrupted today!
The truth is that the word humility comes from the Latin "humilis," literally meaning “on the ground.” Being humble doesn’t mean standing in a pit any more than it means putting yourself up on a mountain. Humility is truth. Being humble means being grounded. And being grounded is a manly posture. Very manly—no guile, no duplicity, masks, or pretense. A humble man is a simple man who’s got his feet on the ground. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, “I am what I am in the eyes of God and nothing more.”
A Space-Western Metaphor
Who doesn’t love the classic Western icon of the quiet and confident man of few words but firm action? The High Noon Gary Cooper type whose very strength flows from his humble demeanor. Now I can’t resist an allusion from this classic Western film type to the latest addition of the Star Wars universe in the character of the Mandalorian. It’s like a space-western! Here’s a guy who can step into a situation humble and yet strong in the knowledge of who he is and what he is capable of.
Where the coward shrinks, the proud idiot swaggers and brags, and the humble man walks the walk and talks when necessary.
I find it interesting, by the way, that in this new series it’s the Child who actually activates Mando’s true name and gives him a mission more noble than he’s ever had before. The Mandalorian stooped low, through that tiny doorway so to speak, in order to save the Child. He opened a piece of that impenetrable beskar armor right over the heart and let the Child in. That act of humility and devotion has lifted him now to legend status across the galaxy, though not without cost (oh, that last episode!).
If we men are to be grounded in the truth of who we are, in true humility, we too must descend. We must get off our high horse in order to enter that Palace of the Incarnation. To truly “man up,” we must learn to bend low in service to “the Child” Who is coming this Christmas. We must realize our greatness lies in this act of littleness.
Scripture Overflows With a Humility Theme
As a husband and father of four little ones, I am offered this invitation and this opportunity on a daily basis. Do I stay in my Ivory Tower as I work from home in these Covid days (daze)? Is daddy’s office door made of beskar? Cold, impenetrable? Or can it be cracked from time to time to let in the little children? When my pride wants to assert itself, my control over the situation, the importance of the tasks I’m buried in want me to reject the little ones with their “super important thing” they want to tell me or show me, I need to “get grounded” again in humble service. I get grounded by taking a knee so to speak, establishing some equilibrium for them, eye to eye, opening a channel of empathy and connection. Not that I forfeit my tasks and responsibilities (which are indeed important), but in true humility I establish my priorities.
The Master set the tone here for us, and didn’t He have some pretty important stuff to do on His schedule?
“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:14-15)
The Scriptures are blowing up with this theme!
- “At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them...” (Matthew 18:1-2)
- “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
- “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
When we empty ourselves (as opposed to belittle or humiliate ourselves), the wild thing is, He calls us up to new heights. If we take the lowest seat He says “Friend, come up higher.” (Luke 14:10) The tiny portal of humility opens up into the mansions of Heaven!
And in this humble way, the Child has our back so to speak (just like Baby Yoda saved the Mandalorian in his darkest hour! OK, that’s probably the last reference to Mando.). The Christ Child takes up our self-offering and gives us so much more in return.
The Little Lord Jesus
But the trick is, we have to descend. We have to go through the little door. This is true manliness, by the way. This is the narrow path. This is what He did for us first! If we want to man up we need to first get down on our knees. The miracle of Christmas is that He came to us in this littleness. He didn’t appear as a man, in his prime, full beard and flowing robes, golden rays streaming from his face. He was first Christ the blastocyst, then Christ the zygote, then Christ the fetus, and then Christ the newborn babe, swaddled in rags and vulnerable to the cold and unclean stable set in the dark of the world’s deeper darkness of sin. He came little, in all humility, and then He grew in wisdom and stature and became a man before us. (Luke 2:52)
I called this reflection “How to Man Up for the Little Lord Jesus.” Do you want to be a man? Do you want to actually and finally know what that even means or looks like?
Well, if we look to Christ Who “fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 22), it looks like letting go. It looks like surrender. It’s not the gathering of more beskar armor to cover ourselves, but rather it’s the decluttering of heart and mind, being stripped of the glories real or imagined that we imagined ought to adorn us as men. Strength, accomplishment, ability, authority, the art of conquest, and control. And there’s a thing that serves as the illusion of acquiring and exhibiting this conquest and control in the lives of far too many men: pornography.
Porn Is a Sham
As C.S. Lewis wrote regarding the fantasy women a porn addict conjures up:
“... the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival. Among those shadowy brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity. In the end, they become merely the medium through which he increasingly adores himself...”
And that self-adoration is diabolical my brothers. We become so full of ourselves (including our obsession over our own broken addiction itself!) that there’s little room for anything or anyone else! It’s the furthest thing from the free fall Jesus made in coming to us as a child at Christmas when the glory of the Father that surrounded him was burned off like the fuselage of a shuttle entering the earth’s atmosphere. He let it all go. With porn, we try to gobble it all up. But the act of humble faith and surrender is the way. Yes, this is the Way.
After all, almost the main work of life is to come out of ourselves, out of the little dark prison we are all born in. Masturbation is to be avoided as all things are to be avoided which retard this process.
"The danger is that of coming to love the prison.” - Personal Letter From C.S. Lewis to Keith Masson (found in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3)
So the challenge and the invitation to make all of this practical. To help in the liberation, to assist in the ascent of humility I propose STRIVE-21. It was a blessing to be involved in the construction of this program, to be present during the filming with Matt Fradd, and to assist in injecting key themes of the Theology of the Body of Saint Pope John Paul II into this 21-day detox from porn. Now it’s free and here for you. And with it come a band of brothers nearly 25,000 strong from across the planet and from every age and stage of life.
STRIVE-21 is a practical step-by-step plan to break free from pornography, and a supportive community of men from around the world journeying together. You'll also have lifetime access to the challenge and current and future live events.
If you really want to man up. If you really desire the freedom Christ promises and the quiet strength of being grounded in Him in true humility as Christmas comes and a new year soon begins, then this is a moment to strive. For the “glory of God is man fully alive.” (Saint Irenaeus)
STRIVE: A 21-Day Detox from Porn
STRIVE: A 21-Day Detox from Porn by Matt Fradd has transformed the lives of men from all around the world. It is a step-by-step plan to finally break free from porn, delivered each day. Powerful videos, challenges, live events, a free trial to Covenant Eyes, and a world-wide community included.
Audience: Men ages 18 and over
Resource Type: Detox Challenge