We begin 2022 in rather odd circumstances. The COVID-19 virus hasn’t let us off the hook just yet. As a society in general, and a school in particular, we are being asked to be careful and also adaptable. Over the break I had the experience of needing to isolate for some of the holidays, having been a close contact of someone who caught COVID-19. Everything worked out and the person with COVID-19 recovered fully, but it wasn’t exactly what I had planned for the holiday!
In these strange COVID times, which can be quite stressful, we need to take care of each other. We need to look out for each other. We need to be gentle with each other.
I think this is where the Christian quality of humility is so helpful. It was modelled by Jesus and taught by people like St Peter in the early Church. Much more recently, humility has been described in quite precise and scientific terms by the University of Pennsylvania’s Character Strengths model, which we teach here at St Peter’s College.
In his first letter St Peter gives us the lovely instruction to “Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another” (1 Peter 5: 5). He is talking both to the elders of the Church (the leaders) and also those who are younger.
Knowing that I wanted to speak and write about humility this term, I was chatting with the Head of Middle Years, Mr Coventry, about it. We agreed that there is something about a truly humble person that makes you warm to them as a person. Humble people are almost always good listeners. By their very nature, they invite you to trust them with your story.
The thing about true humility is that it doesn’t mean denying your own success. If you are a humble person, you don’t pretend that you haven’t been successful, but you let your achievements speak for themselves.
2022 Australian Open winner, Ash Barty, is a recent, positive example. Obviously, you don’t win the Australian Open without being able to play tennis really well, but there is something about her nature which models humility. Apparently, she didn’t want to party into the night with a whole lot of famous people after her victory and have many photos taken with them. She went to bed early because she was feeling a bit tired! She speaks with humility too, I’ve noticed. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, she gives back to the community through a number of initiatives including an Indigenous tennis program in her home state of Queensland and also in supporting the RSPCA. Humility and service are linked.
God bless you with the gift of humility this year as we support each other all the way.
The Reverend Dr Theo McCall