How To Be Truly Humble, And Why It’s Worth It

Humility
Noun
The quality of not being proud because you are aware of your bad qualities.

Humble
Adjective
Not proud, or of the belief that you are of any significant importance.

Have you ever been in a situation where some belligerent jackass had the audacity to ask someone the question: “Do you KNOW WHO I AM??”

The answer to that question is really: “You are a human being who is no greater or lesser than anyone else on the face of the earth, regardless of what you may have been led to believe.”

There’s a lot to be said for humility, and why it’s important. Here are a few reasons why we could all stand to be a bit more humble.

No-one Is Perfect

None of us. We’re all on a great journey to learn who we are and hopefully leave a positive legacy on this little planet, but each and every one of us is going to cock up good and proper at some point. In all likelihood, we’ll cock up a lot. We will make mistakes, and hurt other people (sometimes accidentally, sometimes intentionally), and if we’re decent and not complete morons, we’ll apologize for doing so.

Acknowledging the fact that we are flawed beings allows us room to grow. People who have an overblown sense of their own importance also tend to believe that they are infallible. They can be arrogant, and refuse to believe that any decision or action of theirs might, in fact, be wrong. When that happens, the person isn’t allowing himself or herself any leeway for personal development. After all, if you already know everything, how can you learn anything new? If you already believe yourself to be perfect, what room is there for self-improvement?

Try this exercise: split a sheet of paper in two. On one piece, write down all the things that you value and appreciate about yourself. On the other piece, write down everything about yourself that you know you need to work on. Be honest. Brutally so, if need be. It could be that you need to stop slurping your morning coffee because you know it irritates your partner when you do it, or the fact that you know damned well that you could be less abrasive towards that coworker you don’t like.

Note that the traits listed on both pieces of paper allow you room for improvement and personal growth. Even the greatest masters acknowledge that they can be better at what they do with practice and dedication.

Acknowledging Mortality Makes Us More Compassionate

None of us get out of here alive. Death is inevitable, and making friends with that idea can alleviate a lot of anxiety about our imminent mortality. When we’re aware that we walk with death on a daily basis, we recognize that we’re all just small actors on an enormous stage: we all have roles to play, we’re all moving parts of the whole, but we’re all equal (equality is at the heart of being humble as the above definition suggests)… and since we’re all going to face death at some point, we have the ability to be more compassionate towards others.

Prince or pauper, celebrity or social outcast, each and every one of us will exit stage left, and we’ll generally get to look back on our lives to see what kind of an impact we had while we were here. Did we live lives of greed, or selflessness? Did we take the opportunity to be kind, or were we cruel because it amused us to do so?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • If you were to die tomorrow, what would people say about you?

If you keep a journal, write down your answers to these as a spiritual growth exercise. If you don’t like the answers, ask yourself what you might be able to do to improve how you’re seen in other people’s eyes. If you don’t like the legacy you’d leave, what do you think you can do to make it brighter?

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Sincere Acceptance Of Others

When we are patently aware of our own shortcomings and issues, we can really appreciate the people in our lives who put up with us with a minimal amount of complaint. Our friends, partners, spouses – those who aren’t obligated to be in our lives, but choose to stick around for one reason or another despite our many foibles.

When we can look at ourselves with honest criticism and acknowledge the traits in us that may be off-putting to others, and see that we’re loved and accepted despite (or perhaps because of) those traits, we can extend that same type of unconditional acceptance to those we care about.

Loving people isn’t about making them into carbon copies of ourselves, or changing them so that their behavior is more pleasing to us. It’s about seeing them as whole, beautifully flawed individuals in their own right, and appreciating them as they are.

Their behaviors may differ from yours, they might like sports instead of reality TV, or they may have different spiritual beliefs than you do. Whatever your differences, you can acknowledge that they’ve also had tremendous life experiences, have gleaned knowledge from their trials, and have wisdom to share with you. They can be appreciated as individuals, and your differences can be celebrated.

Is this person of a different cultural or religious background? Discuss your respective beliefs and cultural upbringing with joviality and open hearts. Maybe attend celebrations with one another’s family. Have potluck dinners. Learn a few words in each other’s languages, beginning with “thank you”.

Are there people in your life whom you’re having difficulty accepting? What is it about them that you struggle with? How can you address those issues?

Gratitude

When we acknowledge that we aren’t “owed” anything because we’re super-special unicorn faerie princesses, we can be truly grateful when people do nice things for us out of the kindness of their hearts. If a person gifts us with a kind gesture, or offers us a physical token, it’s because we’ve done something to leave a positive effect on their lives, and they’re honoring us with something in turn. That’s pretty damned special, right there.

Consider a small child who draws a picture for someone they care about. The child doesn’t own anything of value, but wants to create and give something in appreciation for a small kindness… and they can tell the difference between someone who ooohs and aaaahs loudly when they receive the child’s gift, and someone who takes a moment to really think about what went into its creation, and then offers a sincere “thank you”.

Do you feel sincere gratitude towards the people in your life? Or do you take their actions towards you in stride because you feel that you’re owed them?

Many people are far too eager to criticize others because of their perceived flaws or failures, but each and every one of us is beautifully broken in our own way, and will fail several times over the course of our lives. Western culture seems to thrive on schadenfreude (pleasure derived from another’s misfortune), with popular TV shows pitting people against each other instead of encouraging people to work together. Some shows offer criticism and humiliation as forms of entertainment, and the people who watch said shows often turn around and act out that kind of behavior in their daily lives. They put other people down, mock others for their perceived shortcomings, but by what right can they do so? The belief that they are above reproach?

Keep in mind that those who point out their inferiors don’t have any.

Don’t be an arrogant so-and-so; be kind whenever the opportunity arises, and own your mistakes with acknowledgement and sincere apology. You may end up having a surprisingly positive effect on another person’s life, and that will ripple outwards and affect everyone else in their circle.

This is how to be humble. Now it’s your turn. Time to start living with grace and humility in everything you do.

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