[do action=”vfdictstart” title=”hu·mil·i·ty”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.”/] [do action=”vfdictend”/]
Having a modest estimate of ones own importance. Not proud.
You should keep your words soft and tender because tomorrow you might have to eat them.
Humility is the crown of victory.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.” author=”Frank Leahy”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” author=”Author Unknown”/]
Humility is the quality of being modest, reverential, even politely submissive, and never being arrogant, contemptuous, rude or even self-abasing. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of transcendent unity with the universe or the divine, and of ego-less-ness.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”When pride comes, then comes shame, but with the humble is wisdom.” author=”Proverbs 11:2″/]
Humility is the strength to put others before ourselves. There is an old sports quote that says, “There are two kinds of athletes, those who are humble and those who are about to be.” It doesn’t matter who you are, at some point you will be put in your place and it’s often when you are most filled with the vice of pride and are thinking the most highly of yourself that you are humbled. No one is perfect. Everyone loses. Everyone makes mistakes. It is important to use those humbling times as opportunities for growth. Its when we are most humble that we are most open to feedback and guidance from others.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” author=”Gen. George C. Patton”/]
Whether you have grown up with success or have stumbled into it recently, there is a natural tendency for a man to become full of himself. People may tell you that you are wonderful, important, and irreplaceable. When you start believing what you are hearing, please remember the immortal words of former French president Charles de Gaulle, “Graveyards are full of irreplaceable men”. People admire humility in successful people. That humble winner who from observing their external attitude it’s almost impossible to tell whether they have won or lost. The star athlete who humbly carries himself in public, unassuming and respectful, the way he talks with the media and deflects praise to his teammates and recognizes others for their contributions rather than himself. There is no better lesson in humility than for leaders to spend time performing the most menial tasks in the organization.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” author=”Matthew 19:30″/]
Mother Teresa’s Humility List
- Speak as little as possible about yourself.
- Keep busy with your own affairs and not those of others.
- Avoid curiosity (though I don’t think that she is referring to learning, here)
- Do not interfere in the affairs of others.
- Accept small irritations with good humor.
- Do not dwell on the faults of others.
- Accept censures even if unmerited.
- Give in to the will of others.
- Accept insults and injuries.
- Accept contempt, being forgotten and disregarded.
- Be courteous and delicate even when provoked by someone.
- Do not seek to be admired and loved.
- Do not protect yourself behind your own dignity.
- Give in, in discussions, even when you are right.
- Choose always the more difficult task.
We are not here on earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.
The term “humility” comes from the Latin word humilitas, a noun related to the adjective humilis, which may be translated as “humble”, but also as “low”, “from the earth”, or “humid”, since it derives in turns from humus (earth). Because the concept of humility addresses intrinsic self-worth, it is emphasized in the realm of religious practice and ethics where the motion is often made more precise and extensive. Humility as a religious or spiritual virtue is different from the act of humiliation or shaming though the former may follow as a consequence of the latter. In Buddhism, humility is equivalent to a concern of how to be liberated from the sufferings of life and the vexations of the human mind. The ultimate aim is to achieve a state of enlightenment through meditation and other spiritual practices. Humility can also result from achieving the liberation of Nirvana. When one experiences the ultimate Emptiness and non-self, one is free from suffering, vexations, and all illusions of self-deception. Humility, compassion, and wisdom characterize this state of enlightenment. Chan (Zen) Master Li Yuansong states that enlightenment can come only after humility – the wisdom of realizing one’s own ignorance, insignificance, and lowliness, without which one cannot see the truth.
Our popular image of manliness usually consists of a man with a cocky swagger, a rebel who blazes his own path and stands confident and ready to take on the world. “Humility” doesn’t seem to fit into this image. Humility oftentimes conjures up images of weakness, submissiveness, and fear. But this is a false idea of humility. Real humility is a sign of strength, authentic confidence, and courage. It is the mark of a true man.
The Hubris of Achilles
The ancient Greeks often wrote about the importance of humility. A reoccurring theme throughout their literature was the shameful, often fatal effects of hubris-excessive, arrogant pride. For the Greeks, hubris meant thinking you were wise when you were not. One story that drives home the importance of manly humility is Homer’s The Iliad.
Throughout The Iliad, we find young Achilles, the invincible Greek soldier, sitting in his tent pouting because King Agamemnon took his slave woman. All the while, Achilles’ countrymen are dying at the hands of the Trojans. Even when Agamemnon apologizes and gives back the woman in hopes that Achilles will start fighting, Achilles still acts like a fool and refuses to do so. In fact, he starts to pack up to head back to Greece. He demonstrates a complete lack of humility. While his comrades perish, he seeks to save his own skin because of an inflated sense of self-importance and his arrogant pride.
This pride then results in the great Trojan, Hector, killing Achilles’ friend. It is only then, after it has become too late, that Achilles decides to fight. Even so, it isn’t even for his country; he is motivated by the pull of revenge. After Achilles kills Hector in battle, in an act of complete dishonor, Achilles ties up Hector’s body to a chariot and drags it around the walls of Troy for nine days.
While many today think of Achilles as a hero, to the ancient Greeks he embodied the shameful consequence of hubris. While they admired his legendary fighting ability, the real lesson they took from his story was the need to be humble.
What is humility?
The definition of humility need not include timidity or becoming a wallflower. Instead, humility simply requires a man to think of his abilities and his actions as no greater, and no lesser, than they really are. Real humility then mandates that a man knows and is completely honest with himself. He honestly assesses what are, and to what magnitude he possess talents and gifts, struggles and weaknesses.
Humility is the absence of pride. We are taught to think pride is a good thing. But pride functions only when comparing others to yourself. Don’t base your self-worth on how you stack up to others. Instead, focus on yourself and how you can improve. C.S. Lewis said the following about pride:
The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive-is competitive by its very nature-while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking, there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.
What humility is not
In their quest to be humble, people often confuse humility with false modesty. I think we’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another. When we are recognized for a great accomplishment, we act as though what we did really wasn’t that important or that big of a deal. For example, we spend many hours meticulously putting together an excellent presentation for work, and when people praise us we say, “Oh, it was just something I threw together.” We have a tendency to devalue what we’ve done under the pretense of humility. In fact, people often take on the guise of false humility for the sake of receiving more praise and adulation from others. You want people to think “Wow, he said he just threw that together! Imagine what he could do if he had spent hours on it.” When you do something well, don’t toot your own horn excessively, but truthfully acknowledge what you accomplished.
How to practice humility
Give credit where credit is due. The prideful man will take as much credit for a success as he possibly can. The humble man seeks to shine the light on all the other people and strokes of luck that came together to make that success happen. No man rises on the strength of his bootstraps alone. Innate talent, a supportive family member, friend, teacher or coach, and lucky breaks always contribute somewhere down the line.
Don’t name/experience drop. Have you ever been in a conversation with a man who felt it necessary to interject how he’s been to Europe twice, got a 4.0 in college, dines frequently at pricey restaurants, or knows a famous author, at points in the conversation where such tidbits of information didn’t belong? These people are completely annoying and are basically trying let others know how great they are. Their exaggerated sense of self-importance leads them to demand the lion’s share of attention. These men are clearly insecure; they do not think they can win the interest of others without frontloading all of their attention grabbers. A humble man can hold back on sharing his strengths. He understands that others have equally important and interesting stories to share, and his turn will come.
Do what’s expected, but don’t make a big deal about it. My grandparent’s generation understood the idea of fulfilling your duty. In his book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw made this observation:
The World War II generation did what was expected of them. But they never talked about it. It was part of the Code. There’s no more telling metaphor than a guy in a football game who does what’s expected of him — makes an open-field tackle — then gets up and dances around. When Jerry Kramer threw the block that won the Ice Bowl in ’67, he just got up and walked off the field.
Why don’t we take a lesson from our grandfathers? Do something because you’re supposed to do it, have a little humility, and shut up about it.
Perform service and charity anonymously. Prideful men want everyone to know when they do a charitable act. They drop the amount of money they donated to a cause into conversation, they post pictures of their service to Facebook, and they never miss a chance to remind someone they served of their generosity towards them. They are obviously doing service for the wrong reason: to stoke their ego and gain acclamation. Real charity is not self-seeking and is done solely for the benefit of others. Next time you do something nice, try keeping it completely to yourself. It’s a tough test of your manly humility.
Stop one-upping people. Few things are more annoying than a man who must constantly one-up others during conversation. You say, “I once went to a Rolling Stones concert.” He says, “I once had backstage passes to a Rolling Stones concert.” Whatever someone says, the one-upper must do him one better. Resist the urge to take part in these pissing contests. You usually end up with pee on your shoe anyway. If you notice someone who wants to engage in this show of one-upmanship, be the better man and let him have his moment of glory. People may talk about that guy’s exciting story the next day, but they’ll remember how much of a gentleman you are years later.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles. ” author=”Niccolo Machiavelli”/]
You Are Beautiful As You Are
There was once a crow who did not like his feathers. “I wish I were a peacock!” he would say. “You are beautiful as you are!” the other crows insisted. “How plain and dull you seem to me!” he’d complain, and fly off to admire peacocks. The peacocks strutted about with their colorful tail feathers outstretched. To the delight of the crow, some of the peacock feathers lay on the ground when the peacocks left. Crow flew down to the ground and stuck the feathers into his wings and tail. He attached a few sticking up from his head. “Now I am as beautiful as a peacock,” he said. But, when he went to join them in their strutting, the peacocks poked him and pecked him. What a fuss! “You are not a peacock,” they said, “Don’t imitate us!” Bruised and still dragging some broken peacock feathers in his tail, he returned home. After all his insults, no one wanted his company! As he sat alone, the other crows said, “It’s foolish to try and be what you’re not. Learn to love the feathers you’ve got!”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” author=”Barry Switzer”/]
The Ox and The Frog
A young frog set out on his first adventure. As he came out of the pond he saw a large ox grazing in a field. Having never before seen such a creature, he hopped excitedly to his father, the bullfrog, and said, “I have just seen the biggest frog in the world! “Humph!” said the bullfrog, “Was he as big as me?” and he puffed himself up. “Oh, much bigger than that!” said the little frog. “Was he THIS big,” said the bullfrog, puffing himself up even larger. “Much, much bigger than you!” said the little frog. “Ridiculous!” said the bullfrog, who fancied himself much more important than he was. “He couldn’t be bigger than me! I’m the oldest frog in the pond. I was here first! Was he bigger than THIS?” He puffed and puffed himself up so much…he burst![do action=”vfquote” quote=”True merit is like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes.” author=”Edward Frederick Halifax”/]
Vice President of the Company
A man received a promotion to the position of Vice President of the company he worked for. The promotion went to his head, and for weeks on end he bragged to anyone and everyone that he was now VP. His bragging came to an abrupt halt when his wife, so embarrassed by his behavior, said, “Listen Bob, it’s not that big a deal. These days everyone’s a vice president. Why they even have a vice president of peas down at the supermarket!”
Somewhat deflated, Bob rang the local supermarket to find out if this was true. “Can I speak to the Vice President of peas please?” he asked, to which the reply came: “of fresh or frozen?”
Humility in Christianity
Catholic texts view humility as annexed to the cardinal virtue of temperance. It is viewed as a potential part of temperance because temperance includes all those virtues that restrain or express the inordinate movements of our desires or appetites.
Humility is defined as, “A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God’s sake.” St. Bernard defines it as, “A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself. Jesus Christ is the ultimate definition of Humility.”
St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century philosopher and theologian in the Scholastic tradition, defines humility similarly as “the virtue of humility” that “consists in keeping oneself within one’s own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one’s superior”.
“True humility” is distinctly different from “false humility,” which consists of deprecating one’s own sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments for the sake of receiving praise or adulation from other. In this context legitimate humility comprises the following behaviors and attitudes:
- Submitting to legitimate authority
- Recognizing virtues and talents that others possess, particularly those that surpass one’s own, and giving due honor and, when required, obedience
- Recognizing the limits of one’s talents, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for what is beyond one’s grasp
The vices opposed to humility are: (A) pride (by reason or defect). (B) a too great obsequiousness or abjection of oneself; this would be considered an excess of humility, and could easily be derogatory to one’s office or character; or it might serve only to pamper pride in others, by unworthy flattery, which would occasion their sins of tyranny, arbitrariness, and arrogance.
In Amish thought and practice, the concept of “Gelassenheit” is a manifestation of humility.
Humility in Judaism
One of the virtues most admired and held up as an example among Jews since biblical times. Moses is described as “a very humble man, more so than any other man on earth” (Num. 12:3), and precisely for this reason, the rabbis said, was he deemed worthy of receiving the Torah. Jeremiah likewise revealed this inner quality when he proved hesitant about undertaking his Divine mission. “The humble,” it is said, “shall inherit the land” (Ps. 37:11); the Lord gives them courage (Ps. 147:6); and “wisdom is with the unassuming” (Prov. 11:2). A pithy ethical message is conveyed in the prophet’s famous statement that man is required “to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with God” (Mic. 6:8); according to the rabbis (Mak. 24a), this verse epitomizes the whole Torah and “walking modestly with God” is the highest Jewish ideal. The talmudic sages regarded humility as on essential attribute of the scholar, Hillel declaring that “one who seeks fame will lose his name” (Avot 1:13). “The greater the man, the humbler he is” (Lev. R. 36:2) and “one who does not exalt himself will be exalted by others” (MK 28b). “Take your seat a little below the one due to you,” R. Akiva advised, “for it is better to be told ‘Come up!’ than ‘Go down!'” (Lev. R. 1:5).
Humility in Hinduism
To get in touch with your true self, whether you call that God, Brahman, etc., one has to kill the ego. The Sanskrit word Ahamkara literally translates into The-sound-of-I, or quite simply the sense of the self or ego. When this sound is stilled, you are in touch with your true being.
Humility in Islam
In the Qur’an, Arabic words conveying the meaning of “humility” are used, and the very term “Islam” can be interpreted as meaning “surrender (to God), humility”. Among the specific Arabic words used to convey “humility” are “tawadu’ ” and “khoshou’ “:
“Before thee We sent messengers to many nations, and We afflicted the nations with suffering and adversity, that they call Allah in humility. When the suffering reached them from Us, why then did they not call Allah in humility? On the contrary, their hearts became hardened, and Satan made their sinful acts seem alluring to them.” “Successful indeed are the believers, those who humble themselves in their prayers.”
Many great philosophers have spoken of the importance of exercising both humility and confidence.
Philosophical views of humility
Kant is among the first philosophers to conceive of humility as “that meta-attitude that constitutes the moral agent’s proper perspective on himself as a dependent and corrupt but capable and dignified rational agent”. Kant’s notion of humility is that humility is a virtue, and indeed a central virtue.
Mahatma Gandhi is attributed as suggesting that attempting to sustain truth without humility is doomed to cause it to become instead an “arrogant caricature” of truth.
Humility is considered an important virtue in taoism. The following quote describes how a wise person should see his accomplishments, according to the Tao Te Ching:[a wise person] acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: — he does not wish to display his superiority.
Humility and Leadership
Recent research suggests that humility is a quality of certain types of leaders. For example, Jim Collins and his colleagues found that a certain type of leader, whom they term “level 5”, possesses humility and fierce resolve. Humility is being studied as a trait that can enhance leadership effectiveness. The research suggests that humility is multi-dimensional and includes self-understanding and awareness, openness, and perspective taking.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Humility does not mean thinking less of yourself than of other people, nor does it mean having a low opinion of your own gifts. It means freedom from thinking about yourself at all.” author=”William Temple”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Swallow your pride occasionally, it’s non-fattening!” author=”Author Unknown”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is well to remember that the entire population of the universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.” author=”Andrew J. Holmes”/]
The truly humble person should be as if they were clothed with lowliness, mildness, meekness, gentleness of spirit and behavior, and with a soft, sweet, condescending, air of peace; these things are just like garments to him, he is clothed with them . . . Pure humility has no such thing as roughness, or contempt, or fierceness, or bitterness in its nature; it makes a person like a little child, harmless and innocent, that none need to be afraid of; destitute of all bitterness, wrath, anger, and clamor; agreeable . . . but not to be gentle and moderate in searching and awakening virtue in others, but should be ever encouraging others to live a virtuous life. . . Yet they should do it without judging people. They should be like lions to guilty consciences, and like lambs to men’s spirits.
Unfortunately this description is that of a humble person with some years of mellowing and maturing, and not a picture of the average man or women. We are all filled with a lot of pride.
To make matters even more confusing, what we call pride is usually not an expression of serious self-appreciation but a defense mechanism compensating for unconscious feelings of inferiority. One would think that those of us who are pursuing a more “spiritual life”, being filled with spiritual grace and gifts , would experience a decrease in the psychological need of compensatory egoism and the vice of pride. But where there is any tinge of guilt or insecurity left in us , unhealed traumas stemming from past rejections or any shade of hidden alienation from good, our feelings, which should become a support for our legitimate self-regard are transformed into a shield for sin or a defense against inferiority. Lack of virtue in the wake of spiritual pride is simply the necessary reflex of the spirit which secretly doubts itself and seeks relief in casting doubt on others.
This is often a trap that people with “spiritual zeal” can fall into. We should all be very careful that we don’t fall into that trap because it’s usually filled with deceit and hypocrisy.
Be Humble.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.” author=”Abraham Lincoln”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” author=”Benjamin Franklin”/]
Many years ago, a rider came across some soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log without success. The corporal was standing by as the men struggled. The rider asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping. The corporal replied, “I am the corporal; i give orders.” The rider dismounted, went up and stood by the soldiers and as they were lifting the log, he helped them. With his help, the log got moved. The rider quietly mounted his horse and went to the corporal and said, “The next time your men need help, send for the Commander-in-Chief.” After he left, the corporal and his men found out that the rider was George Washington. The message is pretty clear. Success and humility go hand in hand. When others blow your horn, the sound goes further. Just think about it? Simplicity and humility are two hallmarks of greatness. Humility does not mean self-demeaning behavior.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Most of us retain enough of the theological attitude to think that we are little gods.” author=”Oliver Wendell Holmes”/]
Sportscaster and former baseball great Ralph Kiner tells the following story. After the season in which I hit 37 home runs, I asked Pittsburg Pirate General Manager Branch Rickey for a raise. He refused. “I led the league in homers,” I reminded him. “Where did we finish?” Rickey asked me. “last,” I replied. “Well,” Rickey said, “We can finish last without you.”
[do action=”vfquote” quote=”It wasn’t until quite late in life that I discovered how easy it is to say ”I don’t know!”” author=”Somerset Maugham”/]
When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
“Excuse me,” Governor Herter said, “do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?”
“Sorry,” the woman told him. “I’m supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person.”
“But I’m starved,” the governor said.
“Sorry,” the woman said again. “Only one to a customer.”
Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around. “Do you know who I am?” he said. “I am the governor of this state.”
“Do you know who I am?” the woman said. “I’m the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister.”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s self.” author=”Charles Haddon Spurgeon”/]
THE OAK TREE AND THE REEDS
The Oak tree always thought that he was far stronger than the reeds. He said to himself “I stand upright in a storm. I don’t bend my head in fear every time the wind blows. But these reeds are really so weak.” That very night blew a storm and the mighty oak tree was uprooted. “Good God!” sighed the reeds, “our way is better. We bend but we don’t break.” The moral of the story is” Pride hath a fall.”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”There are two kinds of egotists: Those who admit it, and the rest of us.” author=”Laurence J. Peter”/]
Be humble, be harmless,
Have no pretension,
Be upright, forbearing;
Serve your teacher in true obedience,
Keeping the mind and body in cleanness,
Tranquil, steadfast, master of ego,
Standing apart from the things of the senses,
Free from self;
Aware of the weakness in mortal nature.
[do action=”vfauthor” author=”Hinduism”/]
One of the finest examples of humility and relentlessness in the history of the USA is Abraham Lincoln. He suffered many, many defeats and disappointments over the course of thirty years but he never quit going after his goals. He was humble. His goals were geared toward serving others in public office. An arrogant man would have quit being faced with so much failure and adversity.
- 1831 He failed in business.
- 1832 He finished eighth in a field of thirteen candidates for State Legislature.
- 1833 He again failed in business.
- 1835 Lincoln was engaged to be married but his sweetheart died.
- 1836 He had a nervous breakdown and spent six months confined to his bed.
- 1838 He was defeated for speaker of the house.
- 1840 He lost in his bid to become Elector.
- 1850 A son died.
- 1855 Lincoln ran for the Senate but was defeated.
- 1856 He tried for Vice-President. He lost.
- 1858 He tried to get elected to the Senate again. He failed.
- 1860 He was elected the 16th President of the United States and is considered one of the greatest leaders of all time.
A Father’s Prayer of Humility for His Son
by General Douglas MacArthur
Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.
Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.” author=”Author Unknown”/]
GANDHI LEADING WITH HUMILTY
One of the world’s greatest leaders was also one of the most humble. Gandhi based his entire leadership on humility and a strong desire to always serve the neediest, down trodden and oppressed in the world. When Gandhi traveled he was often offered the opportunity to be treated like royalty but always chose to be with the most common people. In that part of the world, that meant third class, described as being in close, extremely hot, crowded, filthy, uncomfortable quarters, often with farm animals. When Gandhi was invited to travel it was usually by the same people who met him when he arrived at the destination, the most wealthy and influential of the country. When asked why he chose to travel in third class, his response was, “because there is no fourth class”. On one such trip to England, Gandhi who made the trip traveling by steam ship, chose the third class section. Greeted by dignitaries as he stepped off the ship, he was dressed in a loin cloth and leading a goat. He declined the offer to stay in the expensive hotels and instead stayed in the slums of London’s east end. He met with the king of England dressed as he was coming off the ship and afterward when asked by a reporter, “Is that what you wore when you met with the king?” Gandhi humbly responded, “Yes, the king wore enough clothes for both of us.”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is always the secure who are humble.” author=”Gilbert Keith Chesterton”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”In all that surrounds him the egotist sees only the frame of his own portrait.” author=”J. Petit-Senn”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”When science discovers the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to find they are not it.” author=”Bernard Baily”/]
HUMILITY AND NOBILITY
What is it to be noble? I would say that to be noble is to strive to be better than what is expected, to do what is commonly regarded as ‘right’, regardless of personal expense. To be noble is to strive towards the ‘good’; not the personal one, nor necessarily of the common one. To strive for an ‘good’ that is beyond cost/benefit calculation, to listen to the chime of truth that resides in the human heart.
Many have said that that pride, that opposite resident to humility, is at fault for our failure as human beings to act nobly. It is said that pride brings men low. But I submit that pride also raises men above themselves; without pride, striving to be superior to what we were, we would remain savage beasts with no sense of responsibility, of duty. Pride can beget excellence, quality, prowess.
The difficulty with pride is that there is no obvious barrier between constructive pride yielding excellence, and destructive vainglory yielding boastfulness. Vainglory, the older sibling to pride, is the most puissant enemy a virtuous person will ever face. Vainglory cannot be killed; it strikes unseen by the victim, but is obvious to those around them who are often powerless to lend any assistance. Vainglory is a plight that blinds, quietly seducing men to cover their own eyes with blinders of woven rationalization. These blinders are indeed works of art in their own right; for the individual strands are truths, woven together with logic such that the finished whole whispers pleasant falsehoods directly to the innermost self. And though it is false, this comfortable fantasy finds ready acceptance because it is what we has human beings want to hear—that we are right.
Because we are human, most of us struggle against the specter of vainglory, of self-deception, for our entire lives. But also being human, we are provided with tools used in defense of the soul against such assaults, namely: integrity, faith, humility.
Integrity is personal honor, consistence in applying your personal values to every action.
Faith is the belief in the ideal ‘rightness’ that gives you the strength even with a complete absence of evidence.
And finally humility, humilitas. Because humility is not flashy, it gains less respect as a weapon of virtue than do courage, loyalty, largesse or fidelity. But none of these other virtues are of any assistance when it comes to combat with vainglory, with the mirrored ghosts of our own righteousness. Although vainglory cannot be killed, it can be held at bay if the gentle wields humility with sincerity. For used sincerely, humility makes the invisible specter more plain to see, refuses the comfort of praise, keeps you listening to the quiet ring of truth in your own heart, and confers a measure of grace.
Sincerity is the key to humility. Humility that is play-acted, even if you yourself are the audience, is powerless; indeed it becomes a weapon of vainglory rather than being used against it. To seek sincerity requires the onerous duty of peering inside yourself to see both the light and the dark, the good and the bad, the excellent and the poor. To accept these things as truths is a daunting, yet ennobling task. Once the truth is seen, the virtuous person has the further duty to seek to improve those virtues in which he is lacking. I think we agree that it is the traveling towards the ideal that makes the virtuous; there will never be one who reaches the ideal, and yet all may be ennobled even though the ideal itself remains unreachable.
Sincere humility keeps the virtuous alert; observant; on guard. The only way to keep vainglory distanced is by vigilance. The virtuous man must look first within himself, then to those around him for clues as to how the battle progresses.
How is all of this done?
Avoid the comfort of praise. Should you strive to behave as a virtuous person, you will in due course earn honor and praise from those who see you as virtuous. And yet, you must avoid placing too much weight on this praise, even if it is purchased on the authority of your own integrity—vainglory is too clever for that; it can easily short-circuit perceptions both sensory and emotive. As soon as you are comfortable that you are a virtuous person, that you have acted with righteousness, you are as vulnerable as a babe to vainglory’s jaded charms.
Listen for the ring of discord in your own heart. This quality of sincere humility enables you to hear rings from that quiet bell of truth that resides within your own conscience. Sometimes the bell rings with a ‘rightness’ that is at once comforting and fulfilling, but there should be other times when it rings with discord; listen most carefully at these times, because this is an alarm against which vainglory may have transgressed. If you hear no discord at all then you are certainly in danger.
When such a discord is discovered, some wrong committed in the service of a good cause or through neglect, it is the duty of the virtuous to seek to right the wrong by making an amend. Such an amend is, most familiar to me, a ‘virtuous gesture’ that demonstrates continued service to the ideals even as it acknowledges the error as being part of human nature. The virtuous goes further, accepting responsibility for the flaw and, spurning the comfort of pinning the difficulty on someone else, determines to make it right. Some kind of communication and gesture is always required; but there is great power in this, in the humility to say, “I was wrong” or “I’m sorry,” provided they are spoken with sincerity. In so doing you turn a weakness into a strength.
Humility is a virtue that confers a gentleness that does not denude from strength, courage, loyalty or any virtue of the good person. Indeed it enhances them by harmonizing the bearer with those around them and striking a contrast between the lack of boasts and the quiet excellence that resides within them.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”To have a thing is little, if you’re not allowed to show it, to know a thing, is nothing unless others know you know it.” author=”Charles Neaves”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Blushing is the color of virtue.” author=”Diogenes”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Glory is largely a theatrical concept. There is no striving for glory without a vivid awareness of an audience.” author=”Eric Hoffer”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”When someone sings his own praises, he always gets the tune too high.” author=”Mary H. Waldrip”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”With people of only moderate ability modesty is mere honesty; but with those who possess great talent it is hypocrisy.” author=”Arthur Schopenhauer”/]
On Having a Humble Opinion of Oneself
An interpretation of works by Thomas Kempis
EVERY man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without putting that knowledge to work by living virtuously? A humble ignorant man who lives a virtuous life is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study about all manners of worldly knowledge. A man who is really in touch with his soul and knows his own nature sets no value on himself, and takes no pleasure in being praised by other men. This definitely flies in the face of what is valued in today’s society.
When the end comes, we will not be judged by what we read, but by what we have done, not by what worldly trophies adorn our offices and homes, but by whether we have lived a virtuous life and how much we have loved.
Give up on this passionate desire for knowledge, because it will distract you and lead you down the wrong path. People who fancy themselves as intellectuals like to be admired and praised for their knowledge, yet most of what they hold in their heads does little or no good for the soul to know, and a man is a fool to fill his days with intellectual facts that contribute nothing to his eternal soul. A mans soul is not satisfied by words and facts in their thousands, whereas living a virtuous life sets a man’s mind at ease and benefits his soul.
Unless your life shows a corresponding growth in living virtuously, increased knowledge and better understanding only means that you should be held to a higher standard. Rather than being overly proud of your high knowledge and skills, you should be apprehensive about what you have been allowed to learn. You will now be held accountable to put that knowledge to work to live virtuously loving others.
If you are going around thinking that you have a great knowledge and understanding of a number of subjects, please be reminded that there are many more bodies of knowledge on this planet that you know nothing about. You have no reason for being proud, but reason enough to be humble.
Many people go wrong because they are more eager to acquire knowledge than to lead virtuous lives, and so they end up bearing little or no fruit. What do you think happens to all of today’s distinguished scholars and teachers? They will soon be replaced by the next scholars and teachers and no one will even give the former a thought. It’s amazing at how quickly the glory of this world fades away.
Therefore, when you see another living a non-virtuous life, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain virtuous.
All men are frail, and you must admit that none are more frail than yourself.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”None are so empty as those who are full of themselves.” author=”Benjamin Whichcote”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”We would rather speak ill of ourselves than not talk about ourselves at all.” author=”François Duc de La Rochefoucauld”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Wear your learning like your watch, in a private pocket; and do not pull it out, and strike it, merely to show that you have one.” author=”Lord Chesterfield”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Wash out your ego every once in a while, as cleanliness is next to godliness not just in body but in humility as well.” author=”Terri Guillemets”/]
Commentary on Humility
by Donald DeMarco
Given the finite condition of man and his checkered history, one might think that humility, a human virtue of such evident appropriateness, would be easy to appropriate. It should be the first lesson we learn from self-reflection! Nonetheless, despite how well-tailored humility is to suit men, its correlative vice — pride — is what they are more likely to display. Rather than bow to reality and accept themselves as they are, men are far more likely to cherish illusions and pretend to be what they are not. As one pundit remarked, “Many would be scantily clad if clothed in humility.”
The humble person makes a realistic assessment of who he is and puts that un-illusioned judgment into practice. He does not judge himself to be smaller or larger than he really is. In so doing he avoids despair as well as pride. Consequently, the humble person enjoys the freedom to be who he is. He is not troubled by accidentals, such as reputation, self-interest, or failure. He takes joy in the importance or excellence of what is done rather than in the incidental fact that he happened to be the one who did it. As for illusions, which often consume huge amounts of time and energy, he has none to defend. He is not troubled by feeling obliged to defend an imaginary self to people who do not know who he really is. Nor does he expect others to be who they are not. He has no concern for trading in unrealities. He is not a candidate for being victimized by self-pity. He is not likely to be saddened by not being who he cannot be. Because of the priceless freedom to be who a person truly is, Thomas Merton can say that “the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. For Confucius, “Humility is the solid foundation of all the virtues.”
The great mathematician-physicist Albert Einstein confessed that he was troubled by the adulation he received. He felt it was grossly disproportionate to his own more humble and realistic estimate of himself. “There are plenty of the well-endowed, thank God”, wrote the author of the theory of relativity. “It strikes me as unfair, and even in bad taste, to select a few of them for boundless admiration, attributing superhuman powers of mind and character to them. This has been my fate, and the contrast between the popular estimate of my powers and achievements and the reality is simply grotesque.”
A philosopher, who understood the fundamental importance of humility in the broad scheme of things, was once asked what the great God was doing. He replied: “His whole employment is to lift up the humble and cast down the proud.” Since humility is fruitful and pride self-destructive, such an employment would be perfectly consistent with God’s love for his creatures.
Jascha Heifetz and Mischa Elman, both preeminent violinists, were dining together in a restaurant when a waiter presented them with an envelope addressed to “the World’s Greatest Violinist”. Since the two were good friends and held each other’s artistry in the highest esteem, neither wanted to assume the letter was addressed to himself. When Heifetz begged Elman to open the envelope, the latter bowed and deferred to the former. When Elman insisted the letter must be for his companion, Heifetz, likewise demurred to his partner. Finally, Elman’s persistence was persuasive, and Heifetz reluctantly opened the letter and read the salutation: “Dear Fritz” (their illustrious colleague Fritz Kreisler).
It is easy to imagine the two violinists being humbled by the incident. By contrast, Socrates interpreted the oracle’s statement, “No man is wiser than Socrates”, with rare humility. The “gadfly” of Athens correctly took it to mean that no man is wise. “Humility”, as Cardinal Newman once explained, “is one of the most difficult of virtues both to attain and to ascertain. It lies close upon the heart itself, and its tests are exceedingly delicate and subtle.”
Among philosophers, Socrates is perhaps best associated with the virtue of humility. Because he knew he did not possess wisdom, he was constantly in pursuit of it. Hence, his life-long search for a master-teacher. Yet his humility proved to be a great asset inasmuch as it freed him from the distorting influence of pride. He saw the human condition with exceptional clarity, so much so that he earned the distinction of being the “Father of Moral Philosophy”.
“Humility”, states Henry David Thoreau, “like darkness reveals the heavenly lights.” All genuine appreciation of things requires seeing them against a boundary of nonexistence. From the perspective of nonbeing, all light seems lightning, every sensation becomes sensational, and each phenomenon appears to be phenomenal. The attitude of humility, because it expects nothing, is ready to appreciate everything. The person who empties himself is best prepared to fill himself with the wonders of the universe. As G.K. Chesterton has pointed out, “It is one of the million wild jests of truth that we know nothing until we know nothing.”
On a more theological level, Saint Augustine maintains that humility is the first, second, and third most important factor in religion. It is, in his judgment, the foundation of all other virtues. Consequently, there can be no virtue in the soul in which humility is lacking, only the appearance of virtue.
Even the devil may clothe himself in the appearance of virtue. When Saint Macarius once returned to his cell, he met the devil, who tried to cut him in half with a sickle. The devil failed in repeated attempts, because when he drew near the saint, he lost his energy. Then, full of anger, he said: “I suffer great violence from you, Macarius, because though I greatly desire to harm you, I cannot. I do all that you do and more. You fast once in a while, I never eat. You sleep little, I never close my eyes. You are chaste, and so am I. In one thing only do you surpass me.” “And what is this thing?” asked Macarius. He answered: “It is your great humility.” And with that, the devil disappeared.
Humility is the mother of many virtues, because from it knowledge, realism, honesty, strength, and dedication are born. “Humility, that low, sweet root,” writes the poet Thomas Moore, “From which all heavenly virtues shoot.”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Lord, where we are wrong, make us willing to change; where we are right, make us easy to live with.” author=”Peter Marshall”/]
Every Man’s Humble Journey
From 12-35 young men are told to climb the ladder of success and pursue work, family, career, and success. They embark on a heroic journey of doing to achieve their destiny. Somewhere in the middle of life, typically in a man’s forties or fifties, he faces a crisis of limitations. This is often called a “Mid-Life Crisis”. He climbed the ladder of success only to find that the ladder was leaning up against the wrong building (or no building at all). By this time, most men have experienced some pain: loss of a loved one, a broken marriage, career changes, job loss, addiction, death of a parent or the premature death of a child or friend, or some health problem. The Heroic virtues of his youth don’t work anymore. He has reached his limitations.
Some men’s egos and pride make them immune from feeling the pain of their own limitations and they continue on blindly seeking more power, more prestige, and more possessions. They become one dimensional, shallow materialistic egotistical narcissistic people. We call them “OLD FOOLS”.
Some men take a second path where they feel the pain of their limitations, but they never come to terms with it. Rather than transform the pain with honesty and humility into “sacred wounds” of change, they transmit the pain to others. They continue to look for someone to blame. They remain negative, critical, and unhappy people. We call them “EMBITTERED FOOLS”.
The third path men can take when confronted with their limitations (and often their own finality) is to embark on a Wisdom Journey. We call these men “WISE MEN”. They transform their pain by surrendering. They become humble. They undergo a spiritual transformation. They stop trying to ascend the ladder. They drop out of the rat race instead of risking becoming a “rat”. They enter a “Being” stage where they enter a spiritual sphere whey they humbly embrace others and their story. This spiritual transformation often involves a “time in the wilderness” where we go through a dark place and emerge into the light. Wise Men take what they learn on their Wisdom Journey and give it back by mentoring younger men. Wise Men have realized that it’s not about “My Story” (subjective, personal, worldly), nor is it about “Our Story”(traditions, community, country), but it is about “The Story” (a role greater than ourselves, interdependence with others, our world, and God). Some Wise Men learn a lot on their wisdom journey but internalize it all and never share it through mentoring younger men, we call them “HOLY FOOLS”.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”If every fool wore a crown, we should all be kings.” author=”Welsh Proverb”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”He was like a cock who thought the sun had risen to hear him crow.” author=”George Eliot, Adam Bede”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I can’t tell you if genius is hereditary, because heaven has granted me no offspring.” author=”James McNeill Whistler”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You shouldn’t gloat about anything you’ve done; you ought to keep going and find something better to do.” author=”David Packard”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Nobody stands taller than those willing to stand corrected.” author=”William Safire”/]
By TM Morris
I have known people who wear humility like a graceful crown upon their head. They move through this earth with a presence of meekness and majestic strength. I am always amazed that true humility is both submissive and selfless, yet powerful in its ability to squelch aggression, conflict, or divisiveness.
I am learning that humility is not a relinquishing of yourself to be a doormat, to be abused. Humility is not a cowardly posture. It is being sure of who you are, yet wisely knowing when to relinquish your need to be right, or your need to prove yourself for the sake of defending your position. Humility is sacrificial for the sake of love. And true humility, true love, is wise. It knows when to fight and when to not.
Humility does not contain an ounce of self-deprecation, but is the sobering judgment of yourself in which you understand that the ground of humanity is actually a level ground, that you, just as your neighbor, have capacity for both great goodness and great evil. I know that I when I judge a person for her choices (horrific, immoral, or stupidly superficial), I am pridefully elevating myself to a dangerous, fragile position on a measuring stick of worth that I have created, where I am the judge of those who are “bad” and those who are “better”. And our pride, which falsely bolsters our insecurity and causes us to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, places us somewhere on that stick above all others.
I am finding that when I follow my pride (which I do) I am naively painting an ugly mask for myself that repels those that I am engaging. When I practice the posture of humility, I am weaving for myself a graceful, attractive crown of beauty that softens my appearance and my approach to others. It is this crown that I want to wear, but truthfully, I wear it less than I should. And this is not my attempt at a humble statement. It is a matter of fact truth that pains my heart.
The Fox and The Crow
There once was a big black crow sitting high up in the trees. In his beak he had a nice, round cheese. Along came a fox, as clever as they come, “Mmmm,” he thought. “I’d like to have a bite of that cheese. It will be easy to get some….” “Oh crow,” called fox, “if your voice is half as beautiful as those fine feathers I see, it would please my ears to hear you sing a little melody!” Well, crow had never heard anyone say such a complimentary thing. So, he opened up his beak and he began to squawk and sing. Down fell the cheese into the waiting mouth of the fox below. “Oh no!” squawked the crow, “you’ve stolen my dinner!” “Not at all!” said the fox, licking his lips. “It was a fair enough trade! Vain crow, with your head up in the trees! You got the compliments, and I got the cheese!”
The Garbage Man
By Bob Perks
I had been working much too long on this job. I guess things could have been worse. I certainly wasn’t doing hard labor. But going door to door asking questions as a representative of the federal government wasn’t the most satisfying position either. It was August. It was hot. I had to wear a tie. “Hello. My name is Bob Perks and we are doing a survey in this neighborhood…” “I’m not interested! Good bye!”…slam, lock.
You can’t imagine how many times I heard that. I finally caught on and began with “Before you slam the door, I am not selling anything and I just need to ask a few questions about yourself and the community.”
The young woman inside the doorway, paused for a moment, raised her eyebrows as she shrugged her shoulders confused by my rude introduction. “Sure. Come on in. Don’t mind the mess. It’s tough keeping up with my kids.” It was an older home in a section of the valley where people with meager income found affordable shelter. With the little they had, the home looked comfortable and welcoming. “I just need to ask a few questions about yourself and family. Although this may sound personal I won’t need to use your names. This information will be used…” She interrupted me. “Would you like a glass of cold water? You look like you’ve had a rough day.”
“Why yes!” I said eagerly. Just as she returned with the water, a man came walking in the front door. It was her husband. “Joe, this man is here to do a survey.” I stood and politely introduced myself.
Joe was tall and lean. His face was rough and aged looking although I figured he was in his early twenties. His hands were like leather. The kind of hands you get from working hard, not pushing pencils. She leaned toward him and kissed him gently on the cheek. As they looked at each other you could see the love that held them together. She smiled and titled her head, laying it on his shoulder. He touched her face with his hands and softly said “I love you!”
They may not have had material wealth, but these two were richer than most people I know. They had a powerful love. The kind of love that keeps your head up when things are looking down.
“Joe works for the borough.” she said. “What do you do?” I asked. She jumped right in not letting him answer. “Joe collects garbage. You know I’m so proud of him.” “Honey, I’m sure the man doesn’t want to hear this.” said Joe. “No, really I do.” I said.
“You see Bob, Joe is the best garbage man in the borough. He can stack more garbage on the truck than anyone else. He gets so much in one truck that they don’t have to make as many runs.”, she said with such passion.
“In the long run,” Joe continues, “I save the borough money. Man hours are down and the cost per truck is less.” There was silence. I didn’t know what to say. I shook my head searching for the right words.
“That’s incredible! Most people would gripe about a job like that. It certainly is a difficult one. But your attitude about it is amazing.” I said. She walked over to the shelf next to the couch. As she turned she held in her hand a small framed paper.
“When we had our third child Joe lost his job. We were on unemployment for a time and then eventually welfare. He couldn’t find work anywhere. Then one day he was sent on an interview here in this community. They offered him the job he now holds. He came home depressed and ashamed. Telling me this was the best he could do. It actually paid less than we got on welfare.” She paused for a moment and walked toward Joe.
“I have always been proud of him and always will be. You see I don’t think the job makes the man. I believe the man makes the job!” “We needed to live in the borough in order to work here. So we rented this home.” Joe said. “When we moved in, this quote was hanging on the wall just inside the front door. It has made all the difference to us, Bob. I knew that Joe was doing the right thing.” she said as she handed me the frame.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”” author=”Martin Luther King”/]
“I love him for who he is. But what he does he does the best. I love my garbage man!”
The Horse That Wanted More Beauty
A cosmic god had a horse. The horse was beautiful and also it had many good qualities. But it wanted to be more perfect in every way. It especially wanted to become beauty unparalleled. One day the horse said to the cosmic god, “0 Lord, you have given me beauty. You have given me other good qualities. I am so grateful to you. But how I wish you could make me more beautiful. I would be extremely, extremely grateful if you could make me more beautiful.” The cosmic god said, “I am more than ready to make you more beautiful. Tell me in what way you want to be changed.” The horse said, “It seems to me that I am not well proportioned. My neck is too short. If you can make my neck a little longer, my upper body will be infinitely more beautiful. And if you can make my legs much longer and thinner, then I will look infinitely more beautiful in my lower body.”
The cosmic god said, “Amenl” Then immediately he made a camel appear in place of the horse. The horse was so disheartened that it started to cry, “0 Lord, I wanted to become more beautiful. In what way is this kind of outer form more beautiful?”
The cosmic god said, “This is exactly what you asked for. You have become a camel.” The horse cried, “Oh no, I do not want to become a camell I wish to remain a horse. As a horse, everybody appreciated my good qualities. Nobody will appreciate me as a camel.”
The cosmic god said, “Never try to achieve or receive more than I have given you. If you want to lead a desire-life, then at every moment you will want more and more. But you have no idea what the outcome will be. If you cry for a longer neck and legs, this is what will happen. Each thing in my creation has its own good qualities. The camel is not as beautiful as you are, but it carries heavy loads and has a tremendous sense of responsibility.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Any party which takes credit for the rain must not be surprised if its opponents blame it for the drought.” author=”Dwight Morrow”/]
Young Man Who Desired Humility
There was a young man who desired humility. He went to an old wise man and said to him, “Sir, I wish to be humble, but I don’t know how to obtain it. What must I do to acquire humility?”
The old wise man thought for a minute and replied, “Here is what you should do… go out and find someone who is beneath you and do something nice for him. Give him something that you have or do something for him that needs to be done.” The young man replied, “I can do that!” He immediately left and came upon a homeless man on the street who looked like he had not eaten in days. He took the man to a restaurant and bought him a nice hot meal. After he dropped off the homeless man, the young man, who was feeling pretty good, returned to the wise man and told him what he had done. He then asked him, “Do I now have humility?”
The wise old man replied, “Not yet!” The young man’s face fell and after a while, he asked the wise man, “What else must I do to acquire humility?” The wise man said, “Go out and find someone else who is beneath you and do something nice for him.” This upset the young man who replied, “But I did that already! If I go help someone else, will I then have humility?” The wise man replied, “No you will not!”
This upset the young man even more and he asked, “How many people do I have to help… 10 people?”
“No!” “100 people?” “No!” “I don’t understand… please tell me how many people I have to help? How will I know when I have obtained humility?” asked the young man.
The wise old man replied, “You will have obtained humility when you can no longer find anyone that you think is beneath you!”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself.” author=”Friedrich Nietzsche”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The man who thinks he can live without others is mistaken; the one who thinks others can’t live without him is even more deluded.” author=”Hasidic Saying”/]
Social Media and Humility
The juxtaposition of the words ‘social media’ and ‘humility’ may strike you as incongruous, but earlier this week I was privileged to attend the Social Spaces: Sacred Spaces conference in York (a study day for Anglican clergy). Subsequently, in the monastery we have been reading chapter 7 of the Rule of St Benedict, on humility. I have therefore been mulling over some of the conference comments in the light of Benedict’s imperative, and I think it may be worth sharing my questions if not my conclusions.
To many, social media is just one long, self-indulgent exercise in self-advertisement; and I have to say, there are users of Twitter and Facebook, for example, I would probably not choose to meet in the flesh. You know the kind I mean. Those who are so busy collecting followers that they omit to say anything interesting themselves; those whose every posting has an element of Stalkie’s cry, ‘Hear me, hear me: I boast’. It is inevitable that any system that can be monitored by statistics (no matter how questionable some of those statistics may be) will attract those who are by nature competitive. Collecting ‘followers’ and ‘likes’ is really no different from collecting cigarette cards, except for the involvement of the ego; and that’s where the trouble begins.
When social media ceases to be social, when its use becomes detached from friendship (‘social’ comes from the Latin socius, meaning ally, companion or friend), it becomes a parody of itself, and often a rather sickening one. Yes, social media is great for sharing, not only among people who, in some sense, know one another. One has only to think of its impact on events (e.g. Egyptian Revolution) or attitudes (e.g. sexism, trolling). Yes, social media is great for bringing together people who would never otherwise meet (hello, friends in Australia and Japan). But ultimately, it is what its users make of it. So, it can be used for good or bad; to build up or tear down; as a vehicle for pride or humility.
Benedict has several wise things to say about the uses and abuses of speech, but he makes the point that true humility is manifested in every aspect of our lives, in the interior attitudes of mind and heart as well as our more exterior behavior. So, my question for today is: how do we manifest humility in our use of social media? This is another way of approaching the old conundrum about how we integrate our online and offline persona, but sometimes posing the question in a different way can highlight things we have hitherto ignored. Over to you!
THE GOLDEN SWANS
In a faraway kingdom, there was a river. This river was home to many golden swans. The swans spent most of their time on the banks of the river. Every six months, the swans would leave a golden feather as a fee for using the lake. The soldiers of the kingdom would collect the feathers and deposit them in the royal treasury.
One day, a homeless bird saw the river. “The water in this river seems so cool and soothing. I will make my home here,” thought the bird. As soon as the bird settled down near the river, the golden swans noticed her. They came shouting. “This river belongs to us. We pay a golden feather to the King to use this river. You ca not live here.” “I am homeless, brothers. I too will pay the rent. Please give me shelter,” the bird pleaded. “How will you pay the rent? You do not have golden feathers,” said the swans laughing. They further added, “Stop dreaming and leave once.” The humble bird pleaded many times. But the arrogant swans drove the bird away.
“I will teach them a lesson!” decided the humiliated bird.
She went to the King and said, “O King! The swans in your river are impolite and unkind. I begged for shelter but they said that they had purchased the river with golden feathers.” The King was angry with the arrogant swans for having insulted the homeless bird. He ordered his soldiers to bring the arrogant swans to his court. In no time, all the golden swans were brought to the King’s court. “Do you think the royal treasury depends upon your golden feathers? You cannot decide who lives by the river. Leave the river at once or you all will be beheaded!” shouted the King.
The swans shivered with fear on hearing the King. They flew away never to return. The bird built her home near the river and lived there happily forever. The bird gave shelter to all other birds in the river.