In the earliest days of MakeLifeClick, we spent time exploring the 7 values that underpin the community. These are:
We explored each of these in season 1 of the podcast – you can listen to the final wrap-up episode here.
Alongside the podcast, members of the community wrote some heartfelt posts, expressing what these words/values mean to them.
Over the next while, we’ll be sharing some of these. Here’s a piece by Lisa, exploring Humility…
The quiet voice of humility
Ok Google. Humility….. ‘A low self-regard’. Really? When I think of humility I don’t think of weakness, very much the opposite. But hold on, it’s not saying weakness but low SELF-regard. Delving into humility this sense of Self becomes a very important concept.
When I think of people who are known for their humility it is usually those people who have given up privileges in order to help others, such as Mother Teresa. Perhaps she was frequently asked about humility as she actually offered a list of ways to practice it , including ‘accept insults and injuries; speak as little as possible of one’s self; never stand on one’s dignity’, amongst others. Interestingly, Mother Teresa also lists ‘to choose always the hardest’ as a way to practice humility.
Few people take the bold steps such as those of Mother Teresa. The ‘every day’ act of humility may be smaller, quieter. Letting someone in front of you in a queue. Listening to someone else speak rather than just waiting to speak yourself. Saying thank you. Saying sorry. Asking for help. Here, humility can be seen to reflect its Latin origin ‘humilis’, to ‘bring low’, but not your self worth, instead, your ego’s sense of importance. That ego that says ‘you can’t ask for help’ or ‘I was here first’ or ‘I’m not good enough’. In this quiet state of humility we can, as psychotherapist Hubert Benoit said, ‘accept our own strengths and limitations’  and move beyond our focus on Self. One definition of humility is to be ‘free from pride or arrogance’, a freedom that comes from truly knowing yourself, allowing us to be bold and vulnerable with no pride or Self to get in the way.
I decided to observe instances of humility in my every day life. To take this idea of getting to know myself, my strengths and weaknesses and to accept them, to be able to say ‘this is who I am’. This is what I learnt:
- It is easier to notice acts of humility in others. This is not helped by the fact that when observing acts of humility done by yourself (eg holding a door open for someone) your ego then says ‘Look! You’re a humble person, well done YOU’ thus possibly negating any form of humility.
- Accepting strengths is not necessarily easier than weaknesses. When stating my professional strengths on my cv recently, my ego didn’t want to accept them but would rather enlist the help of my inner, quiet vocal doubter with thoughts like ‘you say you can do that but it’s been a while, can you really do it? The industry has moved on. You’re not good enough’. Humility says ‘you have the skills’.
- Certain situations provide ample opportunities for observing your weaknesses eg stressful job, difficult relationships, traffic. For me, parenting highlights so many of my weaknesses that some days I feel like this is one huge training exercise. But, in my attempt to enter this state of humility and accept my flaws I decided to specifically meditate on a difficult event that happened in the day, invariably, trying to get my children to do something they didn’t want to do when out in public. We all process our thoughts/feelings differently. Some talk them out, some go for a run to sort them out, some meditate. And some meditations are not pleasant experiences at all. At first I thought it was to do with wanting to control what my children did. But then I realised that at home I am happy for them to be more exploratory (messy) or expressive (loud). No, this discomfort was about what others thought of me and, more importantly, my parenting.
- Facing your flaws feels like humiliation. Interestingly, this word comes from the same origin as humility but ‘humiliation’ is all about focusing on Self. The more attached we are to our sense of Self then the more humiliated we feel when a flaw is highlighted to us. This is why humiliation is so powerful a tool for hurting others and causing long term trauma.
- When we face it and sit with it and be kind to ourselves about it, our flaws need not be so difficult to confront. As Hubert Benoit said ‘if we can sit with humiliation then we can face instances of humiliation with humility’. Ego hates us sitting with difficult things. It wants us to fix it, deny it, excuse it, distract ourselves from it. Instead, if we sit with our strengths and weaknesses with humility then we can hold on to our sense of Self a little less tightly. On reflection, my strengths and weaknesses, though still there, didn’t have the same significance as before. I thought the acceptance of ‘this is who I am’ would be a revelatory moment, a ‘ta-daa’. But actually, instead, the quiet voice of humility sounded more like a ‘So that’s you. That’s ok. Shall we focus on something else now?’.
- Humility makes space for something new, be it trust, compassion, courage…..
Some definitions of humility recognise this going beyond Self, such that it becomes ‘seeing all beings as equal’ and even ‘putting others before yourself’. This makes sense, focus less on Self and there is more room for connection with others. S. Radhakrishnan said that, in Hindu Dharma, humility is ‘the non-judgemental state of mind when we are best able to learn, contemplate and understand everyone and everything else’. It seems natural that humility allows us to stand confident in who we are, rather than being at the mercy of our ego, and be more open, even vulnerable.
I was humbled by Tim’s podcast about his vision for MLC. He speaks openly about his hopes for the community. Whilst listening I realised my lack of humility prevents me from being so open and vulnerable, particularly in community. And yet, Gandhi’s quote ‘we must become as humble as dust before we can discover the truth’ sums up what I need to become. Remember Mother Teresa’s words, always choose the hardest.
1 ‘The Joy in Loving: A Guide to Daily Living’ by Mother Teresa.
2 In ‘A Journey from Humiliation to Humility’ by Corrado Pensa https://buddhismnow.com/2013/06/16/a-journey-from-humiliation-to-humility-by-corrado-pensa/amp
~ By Lisa