From The Desire Of Being Loved

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By Katy DeCoste

“From the need to be understood, from the need to be accepted, from the fear of being lonely… deliver me, O God.”

The Litany of Humility has become extremely powerful in my life, but the first time I read it, I was absolutely floored. 

As human beings created for love and for relationships and communities, we all need to be understood. We all long for acceptance. Ultimately, this comes from a fear of loneliness—we don’t want to face this world and its hardships alone. God created us for communion, for social lives. So how could these desires, which seem so natural, require deliverance? Are they inherently bad somehow?

Do we need to be delivered?

Maybe, like me, you’ve resisted praying this part of the Litany of Humility, a prayer which is incredibly challenging and frightening to pray genuinely. I believed that these desires, which the Litany asks deliverance from, were actually good and holy. And I was right. But what I didn’t see was how they can also become twisted, leading us to internal misery and damaging our most precious and intimate relationships. 

To vastly simplify things, St. Augustine argues that all evil is actually just the perversion, or twisting, of something that was originally good. For example, gluttony is just the good desire for food when it becomes twisted. Therefore, evil is not a created “thing.” Instead, it is the twisting of a created thing, when used outside of its original, intended purpose. Just like every object has a purpose—a pen is for writing, a cup is for drinking, and so on—our desires also have intended purposes. St Augustine’s concept of evil is so fitting when applied to our human desire for acceptance, understanding, and community. 

When our desires are rightly oriented towards God, they inspire us to seek out authentic community, and to live lives in service of others in those communities. But when our desires become wrongly oriented, twisted so that they are self-focused, they become extremely damaging to our spiritual lives, and to our relationships. How many times have I refused to serve God in some way because I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted? How many times have I selfishly disregarded the needs of my friends and family because I was too focused on my own desire for understanding and acceptance? How many times have I believed that other people, not God Himself, could save me from loneliness? 

A love which is not selfish

When we focus on our own need for communion, it’s easy to forget to love God and others. It’s easy for our lives and our relationships to become mere vehicles for our own emotional fulfillment and satisfaction, rather than the vehicles for self-giving and sacrifice which they are truly meant to be. We become self-absorbed. We treat people as objects, only using them rather than really loving them. 

But God did not design us for lives of self-absorption! He created us to love and to serve, to offer acceptance and understanding to others, to surrender our often painful desires for love and community unto Him in our times of loneliness, trusting that He and He alone can fulfill us. 

Understanding the heart of the Litany of Humility

If we understand this, we can form a new version of the Litany. This new version doesn’t change the real sentiment of the Litany. It’s still a prayer asking Jesus for humility, for deliverance from our own selfishness so we can be, like Him, servants who love sacrificially and totally. The Litany of Humility challenges us to be generous of ourselves. But I’ve found that praying this way helps me to focus less on what Jesus is challenging me to give up, and more on what He is asking me to do for Him. 

“To accept others, rather than spend my life longing for acceptance, especially when I know that You accept me already…

“To offer understanding to those who need it, rather than waste time wishing that someone would understand me, especially when I know that You understand me perfectly… 

“To serve You, God, despite the loneliness that may come, especially when I know that You are always with me… 

Jesus, give me the grace to desire it.”

Sisters, I challenge you today to pray the Litany of Humility with new eyes. Let go of the resentment that we sometimes feel when God asks us to let go of particularly entrenched feelings or habits. Accept the prompt at the heart of the Litany, the prompt to trust God, no matter where He might lead us, and to rely on only Him for our fulfillment. In time, He will change our hearts so that we will no longer fear being given these amazing graces, but we will actually earnestly desire for our will to be so in line with His. And what a beautiful day that will be!


The Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…