Part 1 of this article discussed the importance of humility, by first introducing the concept of Self. The idea of Self must be understood before we investigate humility. Without understanding what the self is, a definition of humility, “a modest or low view of one’s own importance,” will not work out well at all. To fully understand the idea of humility we first need to know what the Self really is. There are two different aspects of it in play. The limited self is what we’re talking about in regards to humility.
In a previous article I discussed the relationship between the flesh and spirit. To make spiritual gain, one has to let go of the grasping carnal nature. Like a zero sum game, as one element is gained the other side loses by the same amount.
Humility helps achieve spiritual gain by releasing control in the physical world. To quickly illustrate this, consider the opposite of humility: ego.
Opposite of Humility
Ego is the opposite of humility. It is the self identified as the body alone. It grasps at the little things, making them bigger than they are. Our wins are majestic, our losses catastrophic.
Isn’t this a standard view of life? What do we feel when we see a deep scratch on our brand new car? The common person doesn’t just shrug it off. It’s personal. It’s catastrophic. Some people certainly can put things in perspective. I have a friend who’s works in search and rescue. He finds people dead or dying. From his world-view he’s seen the worse so he can shrug off the little things. Most of us, however, make the little things our mountains or pitfalls. At least my ego does.
Where humility steps in, is in our respect for others – ESPECIALLY those in disagreement with us. The internet is a hotbed of emotions. If you put ups. video talking about the Tao Te Ching, people will tell you “you’re using the wrong translation!” If you explain your spiritual gains, there will be commentators telling you, “you’re deluded!”
The natural response to this, for me at least, is anger. Many people react like this – the comments go back and forth… one person attacking another and so on.
Lessons on Humility
“You’re culturally appropriating, you have no right to speak about asian classics, your’e an American,” can trigger us into responding unkind. But what if we saw these people as they really are?
People who are fighting our sense of self, are teaching us. Their lesson is in patience and humility. They are stripping away our ego, well… as long as we see it that way. If our view is to fight back, then we have lost (no matter how well structured our ideas.) Our loss is in the identification with the limited self.
The lesson will repeat until we understand it.
“You’re a failure,” those words hurt, but they don’t hurt my greatest self – they hurt the limited self that identifies as a success in this world.
In the movie Fight Club, members were sent out to pick random fights with people, but to purposefully loose. Amusing as it was in the movie, it’s actually a good lesson.
If we’re brave enough, we could do this. Engage in a discussion, pick any point opposite someone and then concede to them. It’s devastating to the ego.
Or we can take inventory of our failures. This morning I sat in meditation and took note of all those things that are humiliating about myself. My failures, my losses. I’ve had financial failure, I’ve lost my temper terribly… I’ve also had problems wanting to be seen, wanting to be someone important to others – only to fail. I’m an unknown, a nobody.
As I dwelt on this in meditation, I felt a pang as I released my limited self to its loss. I gave up on my goals and ambitions. Now that I reflect on it, that’s Mabel Collins’ own advice on her so-called kill commands: Kill your ambition, she said. Now I get it.
It reflects the Tao Te Ching’s description of the master… who teaches without words, who has no ego, no identity and is fluid, ever moving.
Being Free of Reaction
Humility sets us free. Emotional reaction is a prison. People end up in a literal prison if they follow their reactive nature too far. The rest of us end up in turmoil and frustration.
Instead of reacting to bull baiting, we can accept it. See it as a lesson. Failure is certain, but that too can reinforce humility in time. This isn’t about “winning,” and that notion needs to be removed from our thoughts. This is about learning. Learning to care for others.
Responding with Humility
Being humble allows us to help others. To see beyond our own needs and put things into greater perspective. This is the real importance of the work. By detangling from the grip of ego, we open to the light of our Greater nature.
Where one set’s the boundaries of humility is up to the individual. What it accomplishes is our path to the greater self, through the dismissal of the limited self.
So I leave with this notion: consider humility an asset. It is a calm response, rather than an emotional reaction. It makes us strong in our quietude, rather than servants of another. In the end, we become the masters – masters of our own nature.