Last night, I slept all night long—no waking up at 3:30 and staring out into the dark space, no looking at the clock thinking 30 minutes has gone by since the last time I checked when it’s been only 5, no tossing and turning wishing I had a better pillow (I always wish I had a better pillow). I think my restful night is a result of learning the difference between humility and humiliation.
I went to an orchestra rehearsal last night, our first in preparation for performing Scheherazade and Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. The horn is not a big feature in this program. With a few exceptions in the principle part, we aren't the solo instrument in the concerto, and we don’t represent a hostile sultan or a sultry storyteller. But every part has a role to play, and I felt sorely unprepared. Not that I hadn’t practiced or listened to the music beforehand, but I was too easily thrown, and there are some passages I physically cannot play, practice or no.
It didn’t help that I had basically eaten poison before showing up for rehearsal. After dinner, I had a small serving of the Cool Whip-based dessert I told you about in my previous post, and I believe the stuff is laced with something wicked. Even a sampling gives me a headache, and the small ramekin-sized serving I had was enough to blow up my brain and affect my eyesight. And by the time I took my seat on stage, I was feeling full-body unwell. I have had this reaction to sugar before, but I wasn’t expecting it from this fluff.
The thing is, throughout the evening I had to be honest and recognize that my sorry excuse for musicianship couldn’t be solely attributed to eating crap. I couldn’t even use that as an excuse for ten percent of my errors and apparent cluelessness and inability to triple-tongue at high speed or play with confidence. All I’m saying is that the headache and what felt like an allergic reaction to fake whipped cream didn’t help.
Whatever the cause, the evening was a lesson in humility. But let’s be clear, it was not a lesson in humiliation, and there is a huge difference between the two. I didn’t always know that, and there was a time when I would have returned home from such an evening, crawled into bed feeling like a complete failure and lay awake half the night reliving my errors. I would have kicked myself for making mistakes and being inadequate, and I would have tried to talk myself into quitting this thing that gives me so much joy; and all for being a fallible human being. Machines must sleep so well at night.
I used to be under the tutelage of a pastor who didn’t seem to know the difference between humility and humiliation and would deliver entire sermons using the word “humiliation” for what one must accept in spiritual development. He was so wrong, and how sad and gut-punching. And how sleepless.
Humility is a good thing. It helps us face the tasks at hand, taking on the challenge of the work we need to do instead of sitting back and accepting mediocrity. Humility keeps us putting one foot in front of the other with a reasonable sense of hope and higher expectation, because when we are humble but not humiliated, we know that even though we haven't reached our goal yet, we just might get there if we put in the extra effort. Humiliation puts us in the fetal position and makes us immobile with no hope of progress.
I’m glad I know the difference. Now, to work.