Receptivity and humility are two words that are used a lot and often misunderstood. Receptivity is a characteristic of the human person (perhaps especially the woman) that helps us to be open to God and to each other—to discern God’s will for our life and our career; to surrender to that will; to steward the gifts we receive from God appropriately; to listen actively to the people we interact with; to receive help from others; and to receive our identity and our worth from God, not the world.
It’s occurred to me recently that humility is a prerequisite for receptivity. In order to receive, we must be aware of what we lack and be willing to accept gifts from God and from others. Humility is the virtue that gives us that self-awareness.
The Perils of Self-reliance
When I became a mother, beginning in the early days of pregnancy, was an epiphany in many ways. Perhaps the most important was the realization that self-reliance is not the path to holiness—quite the contrary. The more I try to rely on myself, the less I rely on God and on the people he has put in my life. It stems from pride, the heaviest of all sins, and one that I am continually realizing that I struggle mightily with. I realized as a new mom that I am a perfectionist (my husband tells me that this fact should not have been a new realization!) and that my perfectionism was rooted not just in my anxiety disorder but in pride. After all, if I expect perfection of myself, it means that I believe, on some level at least, that perfection is within my reach.
Motherhood is a fast teacher that perfection is impossible. I soon learned that in order to be the mother my daughter needs me to be, I have to rely not just on my husband and on our family and friends but most of all on God, who is perfect and who loves my daughter perfectly, in a way that I cannot. It was a humbling realization but also an immensely comforting one, to know that my daughter is in his perfect hands.
In action, receptivity looks like listening to the Lord before making important decisions. It looks like finding quiet moments during the day for silence and prayer, even if it’s just turning off the podcast and washing dishes in silence. It looks like stopping in the middle of a harried work day to listen fully to the co-worker who needs help. It looks like flexibility, pivoting a routine or schedule or even lifestyle to answer God’s call. It looks like doing the “duty of the moment,” a phrase I recently learned from writer Emily Stimpson Chapman, who cited this phrase of Catherine Doherty in a talk in Lisa Canning’s Possibility Mom Business Summit. It looks like honest, humble awareness of our gifts and limitations and understanding that the gifts come from God and the limitations can only be overcome with his grace.
It looks like the sacrament of reconciliation, confessing the sin of pride, receiving absolution, and continually working to grow in humility. It looks like receiving the Eucharist, the ultimate gift.
In short, it looks like prayer. Constant prayer, without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).