Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, in her commentary on today's reading, beautifully articulates the transformative value of considering oneself "lower and of less account than anyone else." She writes,
Benedict wants us to realize that accepting our essential smallness and embracing it frees us from the need to lie, even to ourselves, about our frailties. More than that, it liberates us to respect, revere, and deal gently with others who have been unfortunate enough to have their own smallnessess come obscenely to light.
I once saw what Sr. Joan describes play out in an everyday exchange between two people. I heard one person speak words of scorn and degradation about a stranger he witnessed in line at a fast food restaurant order something healthy, citing being on a diet, along with a second item that was pure junk. I recognized his resentment, having partaken in such judgments of strangers many times in my own thoughts. A second person, however, responded to him with a story about how she used to buy health food and junk food at different stores to avoid having someone pass judgment on her. "We all have our own denial dance that we do in one area or another," she said.
The second person in this exchange embodied the profound liberating power of our Father Benedict's seventh step of humility. When we don't have anything to prove or defend because we acknowledge and own our "essential smallness," we not only become free from the judgment of others, but we are able to deal gently with those we witness in the midst of their own "denial dance."