Humility Helps

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it’s my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble.”

~ Helen Keller

I used to think I was important. And I struggled with believing that I was worthy. For each of us, the notion of humility as a virtue brings numerous images to mind. We tend to envision those rare individuals who humbly bear life’s struggles while downplaying their own strengths. Yet humility is also associated with people whose insecurities compel them to judge themselves unfavorably. The true definition of humility, however, does not correspond with precisely either of these images.

Humility is not passivity. Rather, it is an utter lack of importance. Individuals who embody the concept of humility appreciate that each human being occupies a unique place within the sphere of development. Though they can take pride in their own accomplishments, they also understand that the people they interact with each day are as valuable and have as much to offer the world as they themselves do.

As you consider your own humility, keep in mind that to be humble is to accept that while there will always be people more and less advanced than yourself, each individual can provide you with insights that further your own personal growth. Recognizing this is a matter of opening yourself to the fact that not only do others think differently than you, but their life experiences have shaped them in a very different way than yours have shaped you.

This means that while you may have a greater understanding is some areas, others will always be able to teach you something. When you cultivate a genuine yearning to know what skills and talents those you encounter have been blessed with, you cannot help but learn humility. You instinctively understand that emotions like envy breed resistance that prevents you from growing, and that being flexible in your interactions with others will help you connect with unexpected mentors.

Think about when you talk to your older relatives. It can be time-consuming, repetitive, and at times, underwhelming. But it is important to acknowledge that they often spent their lives contributing to raising you (whether directly or indirectly). When you practice humility, you want to become as accomplished and evolved as you can possibly be, yet you are willing to submit to the expertise of others to do so. You understand the scope of your attitudes yet you choose to dismiss arrogance from your attitude, and you can distinguish the value you possess as an individual while still acting in the interests of others.

Humility, simply put, is a form of balance in which you can celebrate your own worth while believing that every other person is just as worthy as you.

If you’re looking for ways in which to be more humble in your life, consider these tips:

  • As a human being you need to be aware of your faults and misgivings. You need to know that you are not unsurpassed. It’s okay to not be perfect and accept your weaknesses. A better self-awareness will help you be more humble in life.
  • Learn to say “I don’t know.” It’s hard, for whatever reason, to answer someone “I don’t know.” Probably because all of the world’s information is at our fingertips, not knowing something seems like an excuse or not a legitimate answer. Life’s full of questions we simply don’t have answers to. Say “I don’t know,” listen, then learn.
  • Serve someone. We instinctively resist serving because we believe there is a direct relationship between being served and being important. Bring someone a cup of coffee, run an errand for a friend, give away some money.

Most of us still have some learning and practicing to do. Yes/no?

33 thoughts on “Humility Helps

  1. My favorite quote on humility:

    In reality there is perhaps not one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility. ~ Benjamin Franklin

  2. Hi Eric, nice post and great topic. Being humble leads to wisdom. I also believe the biggest contributor to humility is being well rooted in our deepest authentic, spiritual self. Then we don’t think, feel or act from a place above or below others, but rather a place of humble, compassionate connection.

  3. Lots of things I don’t know in this world, And I have always gone through life thinking we are all equal,… Which often would get me into hot water as I would speak my mind with various bosses as if they were on my level not on some pedestal but always I would speak with respect!

    Great wisdom again given within your writings Eric

    • Ahh, the boss encounters. 🙂 Some have cost me, even when being respectful. Ivory towers don’t often liked to become Pisa’s. Thank you for acknowledging the post with your kind comment, Sue.

  4. Funny. When I read this I had a flash of Karen. Despite all she has achieved in her life (and I think it is a lot) one time she told me her biggest goal in life was “to make a difference for one little boy”. I thought it was an amazing statement. Put that in your pipe and smoke it into a radio episode. Late life overachieving Mom’s who reprioritize to give focus on more important things. Wish I were more like her.

    • I had not heard this before. But it is so very Karen. And look how beautifully successful she has achieved her goal, while remaining her humble self. You need not be more like her as you are much the same, in your own vein!

  5. Thank you, Randall. I appreciate your grounding comment. When humility and (I would add) integrity are coupled, they yield significant beings and transformative leaders… from which we can learn, grow, and reciprocate.

    • Recognizing that we have opportunities to grow/further develop ourselves is a good starting point, right? 🙂 I’m with you all the way on serving others. Continued happy trekking. I’m enjoying your travel posts. Some remind me of “Postcards from the Edge,” said smiling.

  6. Learn to say “I don’t know” – is something that I need to work on, although I am better at it than when I was younger. It seems that one of the biggest factors in stopping ourselves from learning humility is “Ego”. Ego diminishes with age which is probably why my Granda who is 97 is one of the most beautiful humble people I know, and that also ties in with what you mentioned about elderly relatives and appreciating other peoples skills. In many respects my Granda who has seen so much, would be entitled to feel extremely self important but he’s not like that at all. Last year I showed him the internet for the first time and he was so so happy and fascinated and wanted to learn more. A lot of your post has reminded me of him which in turn has given me more food for thought about humility. Thank you for another great post.

    • It’s good to read (and in doing so, sense) that some of your Granda’s humility runs through you! I’m thinking, perhaps, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. You express yourself openly, Mark, which I find refreshing and appreciate. Enjoy chewing on the food. 🙂 And thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  7. Something I’m extremely grateful for Eric, are those experiences in life that have often popped my inflated ego and illusions of myself and given me a far more sober understanding of who I am. Sometimes we are so caught up in these illusions that it’s only these experiences that wake us up to our arrogance. Not easy at the time, but wonderfully freeing when they do their work. I think humility has much to do with authenticity and the freedom to be yourself. Great post thank you.

    • Thank you, Don. Having had many of those ‘popping’ experiences myself, I can painfully relate to and appreciate your wonderfully grounded comments. Indeed, they are never easy but how thankful we are for them in hindsight. You cite humility and authenticity in the same sentence. To those two I would respectfully weave integrity into the beautiful ‘who we are’ tapestry.

  8. Yes Eric, we learn and practise everyday, and it is one of the nice aspects of ageing that it becomes a touch easier as we are getting older…. In Rotary we said: ” able to lead, willing to serve….”

  9. Eric- a wonderful post! Humility is something I’ve been lacking because I’ve not been able to have good models of that. I unconsciously surrounded myself with people who lacked this and part of my life transition is seeking to be out of my rut and to be more self-aware. Your post came at the right time. I’m starting to see that everyone has a place in this universe and it does not matter what my “ego” says about them. We are just as we are and it is powerful to be able to accept things and ourselves just as we are without fear of retribution. 😊

    • I am glad the post came at the right time for you, Lauren. I am even more warmed by your remark “We are just as we are and it is powerful to be able to accept things and ourselves just as we are…” That is strength and beautiful awareness. Thank you for kindly commenting.

  10. Perfectly written, Eric, as always! I do very much appreciate this topic and believe it very important for us to strike that balance called humility. I have always believed in everyone else’s worth, and recognized their value, but always struggled to believe I held any worth myself. I am doing much better with appreciating my own value now, and that balance is slowly being tended to. It is indeed a good feeling when you can realize the collective worth of people, including yourself.

    • If we cannot or do not realize the collective worth of our self, first, how can we contribute to and appreciate the collective worth of people? (Asked rhetorically.) Truth be told, I believe there are a lot of us who have struggled with self-worth. The fact that you’ve now got it on your radar screen and are tending to it is admirable. Sustain those good feelings, EJ, and thanks much for sharing your thoughts!

  11. Pingback: There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it. | philosiblog

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