Humility is Inevitable. Humiliation is Optional.

“Life is a long lesson in humility.”
― J.M. Barrie

Every day more news of some powerful man or woman humiliated by the revelation of a story they believed they could hide or a problem they did not want to admit.

It didn’t have to end that way.

At some point in their lives, perhaps many times, humility presented the opportunity for healing, strength, and change but it was ignored. They could have walked through a different door, asked for help, sought forgiveness and changed course but they believed they were different.

They believed the lie that they were somehow exempt from the principle that governs all our lives.

You reap what you sow.

We each have our own version of this story. Perhaps not on the grand scale we read about in the news but in our personal universe, no less important. The temptation is always there to try to cover up our shadow side and hide from the underlying issues that cause us to harm ourselves and others.

Ultimately, humility comes one way or another. By our actions or in spite of them. At a time of our choosing or at the worst possible time. Whether we like it or not.

Even if we manage to fake our way through most of life pretending we have it all together or by using our power to hide the truth, there will come a time when everything is revealed and our delusion will come crashing down.

“The greatest friend of truth is Time, her greatest enemy is Prejudice, and her constant companion is Humility.” -Charles Caleb Colton

Funny thing about humility.

It’s like a best friend who offers us help but we routinely turn it down. That’s because humility is a friend we must take by the hand.

When our hands are filled with pride, anger and self-loathing or gripping tightly to an external image of success, having our act together and being impossibly strong, we cannot accept the hand that is offered.

It’s hard to let go.

Humility wants to set us free.

Humility wants to make us stronger.

Humility wants to break up the fight we keep having with ourselves so we can move on with life and stop hurting people.

“Let us be absolutely clear about one thing: we must not confuse humility with false modesty or servility.” -Paulo Coelho

Humility calls to each of us no matter our status in society, family background or personal story.

It’s the first step in recovery.

The catalyst for change.

The foundation for greatness.

It brings us closer to each other.

And closer to the truth.

Humility is the first step on the journey to becoming the person we want to be and living an authentic life.

Humility is anything but weakness. It is the embodiment of strength.

Great spiritual teachers, philosophers, and leaders over the centuries remind us that strength is made perfect in weakness. Those who humble themselves become the greatest among us and bring the greatest good to our world.

We see this in the leaders we most admire. They show us that it is from and through our wounds that we can connect with others and draw the courage to bring about change.

“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” -Saint Augustine

Humility is not a thing you do.

It’s a way of relating to the world.

Admitting we don’t know.

Asking for help.

Letting others in.

Being vulnerable.

Choosing honesty.

Respecting the differences in people.

Embracing progress, not perfection.

Using our strength to serve.

Loving ourselves.

And aspiring to something greater than ourselves.

Every day.

“Humility means accepting reality with no attempt to outsmart it.”
― David Richo

Humility is a principle that transcends our personal values. It is objectively true, whether or not we choose to embrace it.

Humility acts on individuals and organizations. Where there are people, humility is at work.  We’ve seen individuals fall, organizations fall, those at the highest levels of our society forced to reckon with the choice to ignore this fact.

Self-centeredness is not an act of self-love it is the means to self-destruction. People and organizations that focus inward are blinded to the effect they are having on the world around them. The very behavior they intend for self-protection ultimately leads to the thing they most feared.

“Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.”
― St. Vincent de Paul

Humility is a friend that never gives up on us and so will not let us live forever in the bondage of our masks and lies. Humiliation is the inevitable step of prying free our grip and forcing us to confront the truth we were trying to avoid.

Where we see humility embraced there is progress, healing, growth, and change. Where we see it ignored, it’s just a matter of time. Time will ultimately teach us that humility is inevitable and that our best choice is to embrace this gift when it is offered and let it do its good work in our hearts.

We are invited to accept it, seek it and live it, knowing this is the path that will lead us home.

2 comments

  1. Scott,
    This post is so beautiful, as always!! Your work is inspirational. Thank you for sharing the concept of Humility. I love your last line. “Humility—accept, seek and live it—knowing that this is the path that will lead us home.”

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  2. Thanks, Scott. Nothing much worse than “false humility” or empty apologies as they tend to degrade a person’s integrity, or at least compromise it.
    When someone described me as both “kind and wise” the other day, I was truly struck by the comment as I don’t stop and think about that kind of thing very often. I just do what I do because of who I am and what I believe. It might be a good exercise for the new year for us to look at our core values and re-prioritize them if appropriate. Whatever I have to offer comes from what you said that resonates so strongly with me and that is this: “Aspiring to something greater than ourselves.” In my brief memoir, I called it “passion and purpose beyond ourselves….” Happy New Year to you and yours.

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