Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
Humility is defined as a “modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance” by Dictionary.com. In a more comprehensive article about the word, The Catholic Encyclopedia describes humility as “that which is abject, ignoble, or of poor condition, as we ordinarily say, not worth much… understood also in the sense of afflictions or miseries, which may be inflicted by external agents… [and] A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself.”
Although I had already written about humility, I did not feel as though I had completely grasped the essence of the word, mostly, because as I mentioned in the post, I was struggling to come to terms with being humble! In truth I didn’t quite understand the meaning of the word. However, I have come to notice that the universe answers me more often than not when I ask a question, and the universe seems to have been pointing at “humility” for the past few weeks. It all started with a dream in which I was listening to one of Lady Gaga’s songs backwards and she kept saying the word “hubris” over and over again.
Honestly, it had hardly ever occurred to me that I could be wrong. Not that I was always right, I just was not wrong. However, such an attitude is limited in its scope and ability to look beyond itself. Life requires an attitude of curiosity if you are to see the endless possibilities hidden amidst the smallest details. “Being wrong” is a death blow to the ego precisely because the mind believes itself to be the charioteer, the director of the orchestra, the master. However, life has a way of showing the ego that things are typically not as it had planned, for there are many-many situations, things, and people outside of its control.
Once I realized that I could be wrong, and was most likely wrong, it was as though a heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. After all, knowing it all is to forge a battle that is never to be won against the “gods” for which the consequences are akin to Atlas’ punishment–to carry the world upon your shoulders. This is a prime example of how classical mythology is present in my everyday life–be it noted that the meaning of the myth might be completely different for different people.
In addition to accepting my own shortcomings, I found humility to go hand in hand with the energy of gratitude. For one, I am extremely fortunate to be able to have the experience of having a “job” during such difficult economic times as we live in. It is humbling to know that I have it better than others and yet my life is as it should be. This brings me to another point. Living with heart means that the mind is not the sole director, but a co-”director” (for lack of a better word) of a much grander scheme. Said grander scheme, in fact, is so large, and the ego so small in comparison, that one can only feel humbled.
I also wanted to touch on the idea of self-love and self-appreciation. I appreciate the definitions set forth by the Catholic Encyclopedia listed above, but I cannot help to know that as small as I am compared to the grander scheme of life, I am by no means “abject”, or of “poor condition”. As mentioned above, I find myself to be very blessed and fortunate and believe that my existence as a human being at this moment in time is also necessary. Therefore, humility is taking the middle path–knowing that I am small and having a modest opinion of myself, while also knowing that my contributions to the world are important and I am making a difference. It is a fine line to walk indeed, and keeping a balance between the two is imperative in order to move past humility onto the last two virtues of the heart: understanding and valor.
The previous argument begets that I ask myself yet another question: what happens when it is not me, per say, who is making a difference, but that which lives through me? For I have come to realize that there is a well of wisdom that I am somehow able to channel, a wisdom that I cannot claim as my own.
And that, my friends, is humility.
What about you? What does your experience of humility look like?