Verses 13–14: “The tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other [the Pharisee]; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
What does it mean to be humbled? Humility is a quality of humanness; it speaks of being of the earth, being grounded, living in the limitation of the body-mind. Psychologically, the ego (conscious sense of self) does not like the idea of limitation. The psychic truth is that the ego is small in comparison to the larger Self/God Within. Living with this truth consciously requires a humbling of the ego/self.
The experience of being humbled is different from being humiliated. To be humiliated evokes feelings of shame. Shame triggers feelings that we are “bad,” flawed, and deficient, unworthy. Shame paralyzes us. It prevents us from moving internally; we lose access to the ability to make sense of our inner experience with the outer world. Shame keeps the ego/self from knowing our larger Self/God Within. Humility lets us know our self and the Self while accepting and integrating the limitations of humanness.
In this Scripture, the tax collector who felt his limitation, his smallness, in relationship to God is the one who is “exalted.” The Pharisee, who declared himself superior to others, was not. Here is an important symbolic message to our ego. The ego that recognizes and feels the necessity of the Self/God Within receives the energetic gifts of the Self. The ego that denies its limitations and need for the larger psyche is not strengthened by the Self.
So much of who we are is unknown. The unconscious psyche is the residence of the Self/God Within. When we can follow the tax collector’s example and acknowledge our limitations about how we miss the mark of embodying our larger Self, we forge a relationship to God Within. This relationship lifts us up and energizes and strengthens our sense of self and resourcefulness for living in the world. Our experience of who we are becomes more real, more whole. We are able to consciously bear and relate to aspects of ourselves that have previously shamed us into non-existence.
Where do you shame yourself? Where do you act as if you were superior? Where are the places you feel humbled—a sense of your humanness with all its resourcefulness and its limitation? Call on the Self/God Within to strengthen and sustain you as you acknowledge and accept the realities of your ego consciousness. Open to receive the energies of the Self/God Within that heal shame and arrogance and let you accept your humanness with humility.