Humility and Honesty – 6 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer

by Mark Votava


1. Individualism makes community almost impossible

“The private self is clearly an illusion largely created by thinking.  My life is not about me.  I am about life!  That’s why the Bible is a social history.  We’re part of a much larger mystery.  Don’t take this private thing so seriously.  The primary philosophical and spiritual problem in the West is the lie of individualism.  Individualism makes church almost impossible.  It makes community almost impossible.  It makes compassion almost impossible.  We’ve overdone this notion of the private self; it has become the only game in town when it’s not the game at all.  I need to recognize that I’m in a river that is bigger than I am.  The foundation and the flow of that river is love.  Life is not about me; it is about God, and God is about love.  When we don’t know love, when we don’t experience love, when we experience only the insecurity and fragility of the small self, we become restless.”  

2. In the silence of contemplation

“In the silence of contemplation, we will observe the process whereby we actively choose and create what we pay attention to…”

3. The present moment has no competition

“The present moment has no competition; it is not judged in comparison to any other.  It has never happened before and will not happen again.  But when I’m in competition, I’m not in love.  I can’t get to love because I’m looking for a new way to dominate…”

4. Humility and honesty, are the foundation of all spirituality

“But if we hear only what we already know, we simply cannot learn or grow.  That attitude is a sure ticket to ignorance.  Alcoholics say that without humility and honesty, nothing new happens.  These virtues, humility and honesty, are the foundation of all spirituality, but they are hard won.  Most of us have to crawl our way back to them.  Usually we don’t go unless the pain of circumstance force us…”

5. To become aware of God’s presence in our lives

“To become aware of God’s presence in our lives, we have to accept what is often difficult, particularly for people in what appears to be a successful culture.  We have to accept that human culture is in a mass hypnotic trance.  We’re sleep-walkers.  All religious teachers have recognized that we human beings do not naturally see; we have to be taught how to see…”

6. There is a tolerance in true contemplatives

“Others let go of their edges too easily in the name of being tolerant and open-minded, but even here ‘discernment of spirits’ is necessary.  There is a tolerance in true contemplatives because they have experienced the One Absolute, their own finite minds, and the passing character of all things.  This is the virtue of humility or maybe even patience.  But there is another tolerance today which is simply a refusal to stand up for anything.  To this kind of tolerant person, there are no boundaries worth protecting.  The tolerance of the skeptic is largely meaningless, creates little that lasts, and is unfortunately characteristic of much progressive and humanistic thought today.”

Which quote is most interesting to you?