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Is There Opportunity In Humiliation?

Over the past year I’ve gotten to know a young man who works at a local restaurant.  (For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to call him Rusty.)  I see Rusty at least once a week when I pick up something to eat at the restaurant.  Rusty is a devout Christian.  He’s 36 years old, married, and has three children.  He works hard, is honest, has a good attitude, and appears to get along well with everyone he comes into contact with.

Last month, I asked Rusty if he would ever consider working somewhere else.  He answered, “Do you know of an open position that I might be interested in?”  I told him that one of my employees had recently accepted a job offer at one of the local hospitals, and I was looking for someone to replace her.  We discussed his employment situation, and he indicated that he would be interested in talking with me further.

When I returned to my office, I asked my office manager to schedule a time for Rusty to come to the office to take a three-part skills assessment test.  The test I wanted him to take measures proficiency and accuracy in typing, data entry, and Microsoft Word (a computer software program that is used to prepare letters and other documents).

When Rusty came in to take the test, he warned me that he probably wouldn’t score very high.  He was right.  The test took him three times longer to complete than it takes for an average person.  His typing test results were terrible.  His data-entry score was less than half of what is considered a minimum standard.  His score on the Microsoft Word test was lower than what a freshman in high school would have scored.

After Rusty finished with the test, he said, “Harry, don’t even bother checking the results.  I did horrible.  Taking that test was the most humiliating experience of my life.”  I responded by saying, “No, Rusty, you’re here for a reason – so let’s take a look at the results and we’ll go from there.”

I printed the results that had been emailed to my office and we sat down and reviewed them.  As we were talking, Rusty told me that after he graduated from high school he got a job, got married, and signed up for a couple of classes at Illinois Central College (ICC).  Shortly thereafter, his wife became pregnant with their first child.  He ended up quitting ICC so he could work more hours and help out at home.  He never returned to school.

When I asked Rusty what type of job he would like to pursue, he named three different careers that appealed to him.  I told him that although he would probably do well in any one of his choices, he didn’t have a chance of getting a job because of his lack of basic skills.  I asked him if he would be willing to return to ICC next semester for at least one class.  He said he would be willing to consider it.  I took out a sheet of paper and while I explained to him what I thought his goals should be for the next few years, I wrote down the following action plan for him:

1. Spring Semester – 2013: Take a typing class at ICC.  Don’t attempt to learn it on your own.  You’ll never get around to it.  Take a class so you’ll be held accountable.

2. Fall Semester – 2013: Take a basic data-entry class at ICC.

3. Spring Semester – 2014: Take a basic Windows class so you can become familiar with how to use a computer.

4. Fall Semester – 2014: Take an entry-level Microsoft Word class.

5. Spring 2015: Join the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce and volunteer to work on one of its committees with local area business people.  When the committee finishes its assigned task, volunteer for another committee.

The above five goals are what are referred to as SMART goals.  SMART is an acronym for: (1) Specific, (2) Measurable, (3) Attainable, (4) Relevant, and (5) Time Bound.  The only way a person can ever achieve measurable progress at anything is to set goals that meet the SMART criteria.

After writing down the goals for Rusty, I told him that if he was willing to follow my plan, some of the individuals that he worked with on the committees would eventually recognize the same traits that I recognized in him – honesty, good attitude, work ethic, and ability to get along with others.  Eventually, one of the individuals would approach him about working for his or her company.  When that happened, he would at least have a chance of changing careers.

Rusty was surprised that I was willing to take the time to give him some guidance.  He questioned whether he was capable of getting through the classes I recommended.  I responded by saying, “Rusty, these are basic classes that 18 and 19-year-olds take all the time.  There’s no question that you’re capable of handling the classes.  I didn’t learn how to type until I was in college.  I did the same thing I’m telling you to do.  I took an entry-level typing class.  Your children could take that class and pass it.”

After we were done talking, Rusty thanked me for my assistance.  Before he left, I told him something I had to learn the hard way:

There’s a reason God allows us to be humiliated.  Sometimes we don’t wake up to the fact that we need to reevaluate our life and change until we’ve been humiliated.  You said that taking the skills test was the most humiliating experience of your life.  God allowed you to be humiliated so you would recognize and admit that there are things that you need to do to improve yourself and your chances for a better paying job and a more rewarding career.  You’ve been given an opportunity to embark on a course where you can improve yourself and be a good example for your wife and children.  God is calling you to take action.

He thanked me again and said I gave him a lot to think and pray about.

One of the keys to holiness is to accept and view every humiliating experience as an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth.  It’s natural to react to a humiliating experience with shame, frustration, and anger, but we have been called to imitate Christ, who offered up the humiliations He suffered to His Father.  When we offer up a humiliating experience as a sacrifice to God, He showers us with special graces that are only reserved for the select few who choose humility over pride.

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One Response to “Is There Opportunity In Humiliation?”

  1. Sr Roberta Houlihan, CSJ Says:

    Dear Harry –
    Delighted with your write-up today! Did you know that Richard Rohr, OFM wrote in one of his books that he asks God to give him one humiliation every day? Having “devoured” that book, I’m now reading another written by him!
    In our mail going out tomorrow morning,the 17th, my response to your request will be picked up – destination – to you! I needed the month to do my “musing”. I hope it is what you want. Let me know if I left out anything….. Had it read by a Sister friend, and she suggested I send it to our CSJ News Notes editor, too. Love, SRH

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