Humility opens the door to Inner Strength
Humility treads the fine line between arrogance and self-deprecation. Humility, modesty and down-to-earth are synonyms deriving from the Latin, ‘humus’, translatable as ‘grounded or from the earth’. So, what makes someone humble? Are the humble meek or psychologically weak?
In today’s stressful world, greatly concerned with the pursuit of happiness, a bit of humility can deliver great reserves of inner strength. All spiritual traditions value humility and make it essential for a person to be humble to be able to receive divine benediction. The Bhagwad Gita, 13:8, lists humility as the first of the 20 qualities that comprise wisdom. Significantly, the Gita mentions the idea of humility by a negative definition to convey its subtlety: ‘Amanitvam’, absence of the craving for respect or absence of ego.
Surprisingly, it is difficult to find Indian equivalents to the word humility in daily usage, while references to the concept are abundant in our scriptures. Many terms use ‘neti’, meaning ‘no me’ or ‘i am not’, and give rise to words such as ‘viniti’ and ‘samniti’. Not surprisingly the Sanskrit word ‘ahamkar’ literally translates into ‘the-sound-of-i’, quite simply, the sense of the self or ego.
Gandhiji felt that humility is an essential virtue that must exist in a person for other virtues to emerge. To Swami Vivekananda, humility did not mean crawling on all fours and calling oneself a sinner. Instead, it meant recognising and feeling oneness with everyone and everything else in the universe, without inferiority or superiority or any other bias.
Although humility is deeply revered in most spiritual traditions, in interpersonal narrative or management lingua, it hasn’t found much salience. Amongst qualities of leaders, humility finds hardly any mention, although most of the world’s great leaders are themselves lessons in the art of it. Fortunately, a great deal of management and psychological research today is devoted to the role of humility in character building and leadership.
As workplaces tend to be aggressive arenas and breeding grounds for misogyny and other abuse, humble co-workers are valued. They put their interlocutors at ease, and it takes fear and trepidation out of social intercourse. From the interpersonal perspective, being humble facilitates trust, and builds relationships. The humble may be more talented, gifted, or skilled than anyone else and above all better learners and problem solvers. In fact, studies show that humility is more important as a predictive performance indicator than IQ. With humbleness comes a self-acceptance from grounding one’s worth in one’s intrinsic value as human beings rather than other trappings of power and wealth.
Is it possible to develop humility? We must first embrace our humanness and have an accurate understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. Expressing gratitude can induce humility in us, and humble people have a greater capacity for conveying gratitude.
Holding nature in high esteem, recognising it as an overwhelming and awe-inspiring force reminds us of our own insignificance in the cosmic scale. Being curious and open to learning fosters humility. Emulating great people and imbibing from them what we lack in our own understanding can build our own reserves of humility. After all, as Socrates said, wisdom is, above all, knowing what we don’t know.
By Gajera International School, Utran