Today St. Paul opens the 4th chapter of his Letter to the Ephesians with a call for unity. Worth special attention are three characteristics that seem to be the building blocks for that unity: humility, gentleness, and patience. Do we even value these as virtues at all any more, particularly the first two?
It seems to me that this may be where we as Christians are called to be truly counter-cultural. After all, the phrase "humble American" is rarely heard. Even the phrase "American exceptionalism" seems hard to reconcile with the virtue of humility.
Gentleness may even be a less sought after virtue than humility. It may be that the great enemy of the virtue of gentleness is fear. We look at the world around us and we are afraid. Our minds say things like, "While we are being gentle, the terrorists will take over the world." We confuse gentleness and weakness. Gentleness is a calm, deliberate way of being. It is a manifestation of an interior peace.
In the 21st century patience may be the one we are most aware of lacking. Five minutes on hold or in a line and we all begin to loose it.
Humility, Gentleness, and Patience — these are all natural virtues which we can develop. But first we must want them. And that may be the real problem.
In my conscience, the place where I am alone with God,
Do I want to be humble?
Do I want to be gentle?
Do I want to be patient?
Then pray for them, not once but every day, Pray for humility, gentleness, and patience. Look around you for good examples you can emulate. And like any virtue, it requires practice and constant self-monitoring.
The only thing stopping us from do what St. Paul commands us to do is ourselves.