I admire the concept of ‘Humility’. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say I admire people who have ‘Humility’. I admire them because I don’t have an ounce of humility in my being, and therefore, I admire such people and look forward to meeting them, and spending time with them.
I have turned the idea of ‘humility’ around in my head several times in different ages – teens, 20s, 30s, and am still turning it around like I do with every object and concept that piques my curiosity, stuff that I haven’t understood quite as well I would like to, stuff that I have understood but that continue to fascinate me.
What is ‘Humility’?
Well, it’s an easy one to spot because it is so rare; but it is a difficult one to evaluate because it is so rare.
I learnt to spot it precisely because I didn’t have it, and so I could tell when someone was a genuine, bonafide, humble person. And there we have our first part of the definition of ‘Humility’: to be humble, to have the ability to be humble, and so on and so forth.
How rare is it? Well, I have met precisely 23 people who I know to have humility. That is 23 people in my entirely life, and I would have to say that’s pretty rare.
One knows when one is in the presence of a person with ‘Humility’. I know I am taking a round-about way of trying to express myself here, but bear with me. This one requires it. I know when I am in the presence of a person with ‘Humility’ because of the way they make me feel. I feel like a kid – excited and happy and bubbling over with enthusiasm and wanting to ask questions, and wanting to spend time with them and sharing ideas, and thoughts and … well, they just make the world look and feel better. That’s at the first level – they are open to the world, to new ideas, and seem to have all the time in the world for you.
I also know that I am in the presence of a person with ‘Humility’ because they do not – how do I say this? – they do not argue or debate or admonish or prescribe or engage in any other negative approaches. Instead, they listen and ask questions out of curiosity, like an infant holding an object in their hands and looking at it in wonder, trying to get a handle on it.
Finally, I know I am in the presence of a person with ‘Humility’ because they do not have a need to take credit for anything, they are bereft of the notion of self, and they are ordinary, every day people because they are one with the world around them – and ergo they stand out, though unmindful of it.
The dictionary meaning of ‘Humility’ (across different dictionaries) seems to sum up as: the quality of being humble. Humble in turn seems to mean “having or showing a modest or low opinion of one’s importance”. Modest in turn seems to mean “having an unassuming view of one’s abilities or achievements”.
The trouble I have with the dictionary meanings and interpretations thereof is that all of the meanings ascribe a predetermined motive to appear ‘humble’ or by interpretation to have or affect low self-esteem. Somehow that is neither adequate nor accurate in describing ‘Humility’, because in my understanding one attains ‘Humility rather than achieves it. It is like the outcome of a spiritual quest or a proficiency quest or a meditation – it is not akin to “Seeing the Light” as much as it is “Being in the Light”. As an extension of that argument, ‘Humility’ is not about self-esteem or self-opinion at all. It is about viewing one’s self as ‘one among’ and therefore according as much respect to others as to one’s self and vice-versa. In fact, one who accords more respect to other’s opinion over one’s own would in my opinion be one with a Veil of Humility. A truly humble person treats everyone as equal and therefore also treats one’s own self as equal.
The really short – and intuitive – explanation (which though simple and clear, would have been inadequate) is that people with ‘Humility’ have peace.