Humility?

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get through life – or at least our work day – without any unpleasantries?  Alas, we all know that won’t happen.  Not only do we have to deal with difficult situations and trying people, but even our language contains words that make us uncomfortable and anxious.

In this series of posts, I’m going to identify five uncomfortable words that we would rather not hear, and propose a solution to dealing with them.

In the first post, I focused on ‘personal responsibility.’ And, in the second, ‘discipline.’  Here’s the third: Humility.

            Intellectually.

We have no problem with this word, in an intellectual way.  We understand that it refers to the state of being humble and that the Merriam –Webster definition of humble is “a spirit of deference or submission; not haughty, not arrogant or assertive.”

The problem is not our intellectual understanding of the idea, the problem raises its head in the personal application — when we think of it as applying to us.  It’s one thing to talk about the idea at arms length, and it’s quite another to apply it to ourselves. That’s when it gets uncomfortable.

Of course, our culture looks down on humility and humbleness and often glorifies just the opposite.  Our sports heroes are more often arrogant and full of themselves – remember Muhammad Ali’s often repeated assertion, “I am the greatest?”  Our politicians proclaim the power of their ideas and offer themselves as the solution to our deepest problems.  Our entertainers are often the definition of arrogant.  Remember the rapper who charged on stage and demanded that Taylor Swift give up her award?

So, our culture seems to regularly produce far more arrogance in the population than it nurtures the opposite. Humility hangs out in the wings, while the self-boasting, and puffed-up occupy center stage.

The power of humility

There is, however, a quiet power that oozes out of humility.  It attracts sincere people and gains influence, and eventually subdues its more arrogant opposites.  It is interesting that of all the world’s major religions, it is uniquely a Christian virtue, articulated and promoted by the writers of the various Bible books, and embodied in the person of Christ. It was Christ who said, “Blessed are the meek and humble, for they shall inherit the earth.”

That’s a pretty big promise, but indicative of the ultimate power of humility to influence others.  There is something about humility that attracts people.  The humble person is easy to be around and speaks with authenticity that is unusual.

It is the virtue that bridges the gap between our purely physical urges and the spiritual part of us.  Clearly, there is something about humility that speaks to our higher nature.

But, humility is not easy. It runs counter to our human nature. Left on its own, most of the human race would never stumble onto the virtue.  Maybe that’s what makes it so uncomfortable.  On one hand, we can appreciate it in others.  On the other, it requires a huge amount of effort that runs counter to our natural tendencies to attempt to build it into ourselves.

It is such a powerful quality that it is worth the effort to acquire.  The world will be a better place if more of us could strive to build it into ourselves.

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