The Bible tells us that God wants us to grow in humility. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who is now a Saint, saw the process of learning to become more humble as a set of specific, concrete measures we can practice every day.
Her advice is easy to understand, but much harder to follow. Over time, though, by embracing her approach and making it our own, we can gradually learn to respond to people and events with greater acceptance and humility.
I first posted these teachings as a series of daily quotations on Twitter and Facebook. When that project was complete, I decided to draw them together, and make them available here.
Each quotation is followed by an illustrative verse from the Bible or few words of clarification. I hope very much that you will find Mother Theresa’s clear, practical advice as helpful as I do.
1. Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters:
You must all be quick to listen
[and] slow to speak
(James 1:19; NLT).
2. Aspire to live quietly,
to mind your own affairs,
and to work with your own hands
(1 Thessalonians 4:10; RSV).
3. You should mind your own business
(1 Thessalonians 4:11; NIV).
4. They have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things
(2 Timothy 4:3; NET).
5. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults
because of your love
(Ephesians 4:2; NLT).
6. Whoever learns from correction is wise (Proverbs 15:5; NLT).
7. How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to remove the speck
from your brother’s eye
(Matthew 7:4-5; NIV).
8. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged (Matthew 7:1-2; NLT).
9. He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word
(Isaiah 53:7; NLT).
1o. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
yet he never said a word
(Isaiah 53:7; NLT).
11. The wisdom from above is first of all pure.
It is also peace-loving,
gentle at all times,
and willing to yield to others
(James 3:17; NLT).
NB: This doesn’t mean letting people walk all over you. It means letting others choose, and gladly going along with their choice, rather than insisting on having your own way.
12. He was despised and we did not care
(Isaiah 53:3; NLT).
13. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way
(Isaiah 53:3; NLT).
14. A gentle answer deflects anger,
but harsh words make tempers flare (Proverbs 15:1; NLT).
15. They brag loudly about themselves (Jude 1:16; NLT).
Don’t do your good deeds publicly,
to be admired by others
(Matthew 6:1; NLT).
16. Whoever wants to be first among you
must be the slave of all
(Mark 10:44; NET).
17. Do not be wise in your own opinion
(Romans 12:16; NKJV).
18. Even the Son of Man came not to be served
but to serve others,
and to give his life as a ransom for many
(Matthew 20:28; NLT).
All the quotations used here can be found by doing a Google search for: “Mother Theresa humility list”. I am very grateful to Mother for putting her advice list together, and to all those who circulate various versions of it online.
Every perfect gift is from above (James 1:17; ESV).
1. There is no perfect mother
Except Mary –
She is the Queen of Grace,
Who loves us all.
2. There is no perfect father
Except Yahweh –
He is the God who hears us
When we call.
3. There is no perfect brother
Except Jesus –
He is the great High Priest,
Who leads the way.
4. There is no perfect friend
Except his Spirit –
He is the One who helps us
When we pray.
1. The angel being come in, said unto her: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women (Luke 1:28; DRA).
Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head (Revelation 12:1; NLT).
When Jesus saw his mother standing there [at the cross] beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-7; NLT).
They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus (Acts 1:14; NLT).
2. You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48; NLT).
I am Yahweh – the Lord (Exodus 6:2; NLT).
The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help (Psalm 34:17; NLT).
3. Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father is heaven is my brother and sister and mother (Matthew 12:48-50; NLT).
God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever (Hebrews 7:28; NLT).
It was only right that he [God] should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation (Hebrews 2:10; NLT).
Jesus told him, “I am the way” (John 14:6; NLT).
4. You are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me (John 15:15; NLT).
Now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God (Romans 5:11; NLT).
I will send you the Advocate [or Comforter, or Encourager, or Counsellor] – the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me (John 15:26; NLT).
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words (Romans 8:26; NRSV).
Today’s blog is about emotional abuse, and its consequences.
Introduction The following quotation sets the scene, though its relevance might not be clear until you have read the whole article:
Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the places where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved panelling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land (Psalm 74:3-8; NIV).
An open letter to my mother Mother, despite claiming to love me, you established control over me from my early childhood onwards. You did this through scorn, criticism, bullying, condemnation, rage, and bouts of violent destructiveness. These behaviours made me fear you deeply. I lived in dread of your next outburst.
You continued to maintain control over me during my teenage years and adulthood, too, using intrusion, disapproval, and anger when I dared to express personal feelings, thoughts or beliefs you didn’t like. Similarly, you reacted with fury and threats of coercion if I tried to make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with my life. When I made mistakes, or got things wrong, you never forgave me, or forgot it. All this made me dread seeing you and spending time with you. I particularly hated the sound of your voice, and loathed you touching me, but was afraid to stand up to you, or to say “no”.
Your ways of controlling me have had severe, pervasive, long-term consequences for my mental health, in the form of low self-esteem, anxiety, dread, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I have also had to cope with a constant sense of not wanting to be alive, with chronic depression, and with episodes of acute depression. Furthermore, one question has always preyed on my mind:
How could you say you loved me, yet behave as you did towards me?
It didn’t make sense. I just couldn’t square what you said with what I experienced.
Then, on the 24th of May, 2020, a friend sent me a message she had seen on a Facebook site about domestic abuse. It read:
It’s not CONSENT if you make me afraid to say no.
I stared at these words, instantly electrified by their brevity, clarity and profound truth. Within seconds, a personal variation flashed into my mind:
It’s not LOVE if you make me afraid to say no.
Deeply stirred by this insight, further phrases began tumbling out of my unconscious mind. Here are just a few examples:
It’s not love if you make me afraid to disagree.
It’s not love if you criticise me all the time.
It’s not love if you make me afraid to be myself.
It’s not love if you make me afraid to choose for myself.
It’s not love if you belittle my achievements.
It’s not love if you only approve of me when I behave like you.
At last, in my late sixties, my friend’s message had given me the answer to my question: your behaviour towards me shows clearly that you did not, in fact, love me in any meaningful way at all.
This shocking realisation made me consider what kinds of behaviour do, in fact, reflect and express genuine love. Here are the best answers I’ve found so far:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. It does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5; NLT).
It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5; NIV).
I know that none of us is perfect, mother, but when I confronted you, you could at least have admitted what you did to me, and said you were sorry. Over the years, I managed to raise the subject of your behaviour with you several times, always at huge personal cost. However, you never responded with genuine understanding or honesty, instead always trying to justify, minimise, or deny what you had done.
For many years now, I have worked hard to forgive you. Sometimes I even think I’ve succeeded. Fortunately, God understands and accepts the intense anger and bitterness that can still occasionally emerge from my mind, heart and soul. Slowly, gently, he gives me the insights I need in order to be healed, for which I am profoundly thankful.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other (Romans 12:9; NLT).
Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).
You’re the Father of Jesus,
And also our Father within.
Christ’s Mother, the Lady of Grace:
You’re our Mother;
Your children: our kin.
Brother, born here on the earth:
You share in our frail flesh
Spirit in all humankind:
You make us all one
In your love.
1. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3; NLT).
You are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:16; NLT).
2. God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings favoured woman!” […] You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:28,31-2; NLT).
When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home (John 19:26-7; NLT).
3. She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us’ (Matthew 1:23; NLT).
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother (Mark 3:35; NIV).
It was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:17; NLT).
4. The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and remind you of all things I said to you (John 14:26; YLT).
“In the last days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all people” (Acts 2:17; NLT).
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you (Romans 8:11; NLT).
I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one(John 17:22; NLT).