Every now and then, those moments arrive when we’re confronted with some challenge to our well being—an illness, the death of a loved one, a crumbled marriage or relationship, or the loss of a job we thought we’d have until we retire. Now what do we do?
The words “why me?” hover in the air, desperate to be voiced. But we have enough sense to not give in. For we know well enough the very next words—however sharp they may feel—are simply, “well, why not you?”
But where now? Do we continue to rail at the inherent injustice of it all? Or do we humbly pause, step back and then take a moment to think?
And perhaps that is the key—humility. It is sometimes a bitter pill to take when our self-righteousnous is in full flourish or the feeling we’ve been unjustly persecuted remains prominent in our minds. But its apparent acidity fades as we realise the true virtues of humility.
What is Humility?
One of the definitions of humility is to be “Marked by meekness or modesty in behaviour, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.” The word humility derives from the Latin humulis, meaning “lowly,” which then goes on to give us humble. On first appearance, it may seem like we’re expected to be self-deprecating, fixed and determined on our undervaluation.
Although, take another look. To be humble is not to necessarily recognise ourselves as being less than others. Rather, it is simply to say we are no greater than around us. Too often, we compare ourselves with others. In so doing, we are often instinctively pulled to assert our superiority. We give way to egotism—we’ve got a bigger home, it’s in a certain location, our vehicle’s more sophisticated, our clothes are more classy and so on.
As it states, to be humble is to emphasise the importance of being lowly. This is not to say we are less than others. The key is simply to remember we are no greater.
Finding Solutions When the Bottom Falls Out
So, when the bottom falls out of our lives, for whatever reason, we need to humbly recognise that what is occurring, albeit grave or critical, is not the only thing going on in the world—however all consuming it may seem in our lives. What is occurring in our lives is no greater a mountain to surmount than it is for others.
If we maintain the opposite, we’re claiming that all suffering taking place in the world must stand aside, for what I am experiencing is by far the worst. The emphasis is on the “I.” Rather, humility centres on quite the contrary, placing the attention on the other. What is the old adage? There’s ‘always someone worse off than I am.’
Humility will strengthen both our compassion and empathy for others because we place ourselves at the same level as others. In another set of circumstances, whatever is occurring to us could easily be occurring to another. Through our humility, we’re able to accurately appreciate our place in the world.
Again, it is a simple recipe whereby we are modest with regard to ourselves, thus permitting us to pay closer and deeper attention to others. So, despite the struggles we’ve encountered, we can find time to serve others. And there are countless things we can do—take another grocery shopping, drop by for a visit, give them a lift, but ultimately, give our time. Suddenly, whatever calamity had struck us will no doubt diminish in its potency.
When something unfortunate happens to us, we sometimes take it personally. The world is against us, we feel. By facing it with humility, we accept that none of us are special, in the sense we are above or beyond the natural dilemmas that hinder life. Life simply happens. We are defined as much by our limitations as by our strengths. For some of us, a fraction of our days will be better than others. With humility, it’s easier to appreciate the good days, at the same time as accepting the ones that are less than ideal. It’s simply a matter of appreciating ourselves truthfully.
Given the ups and downs of the challenges with which we’re contending, the one thing we must humbly recognise is we are not in total control of our lives. Something may afflict us from out of the blue. It will be completely unexpected. Unfortunately, there are going to be times when even the most well-planned and orderly life will not be able to foresee something difficult that arises. Once we acknowledge these truths, oddly we’re able to see with greater clarity the next steps we need to take.
Taking it All in Stride
We all know how lost we feel when something unforeseen assails us. Momentarily, we are rudderless. Although, when we are guided by our humility, we will be able to face whatever is before us open-heartedly. We will do so in a manner that recognises our limitations at the same time as appreciating our similarity to others. We must always remember, we are all one—no better or no less.