Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The rewarding virtue of humility

It's commonplace today to see angry drivers giving away to road rage. People are getting triggered pretty much by anything that comes across as making them look less important. We are living in a world where many are self-centered, demanding, egotistic, easily offended, envious, and often insecure about their position in the community. They think that they deserve some sort of trophy, admiration, or approval from others, even without any achievements that call for such. The end result is that people are being gripped by insecurity, fear, anger, rage, sadness, and emotional pain.

At the root of many of these problems is the lack of humility. I've been wanting to write on this for a while, knowing that putting together my thoughts on this is not only going to benefit myself but also others who are looking to develop this endearing quality. Perhaps it is one of the hardest virtues of all. I will try to define humility and contrast it with pride. I will also highlight the strong relationship between humility and one's overall state of happiness. 

  • A humble person does not need constant admiration or approval from others. He is self-contained; his happiness is not dependent on how he is viewed by others. He likes to keep a low profile and stay out of the limelight. However, a proud person expects constant showers of praise. He likes to be the center of attention. It is like oxygen for him; he cannot live without it. He is a slave to his insecurities.
  • A humble person is not easily offended, because he has balanced self-esteem. Other people's opinions are irrelevant to his joy in life and have no bearing on his self-worth. In contrast, a proud person typically has either very low self-esteem or very high self-esteem. When pride is due to low self-esteem, it can create self-hatred and worthlessness, so to hide his insecurities, he tries to live in a fantasy world, where he is the center of attention and the world is revolving around him. When pride is due to very high self-esteem, he considers himself special and therefore entitled to receive special treatment. In both cases, they fall in love with a hyped-up version of themselves.
  • A proud person thinks that he is more important, he knows everything, he is always correct, and nobody is qualified to tell him that he is wrong. He judges others with a self-righteous attitude and a rigid standard of his own. Any remarks or actions of others that are considered a threat to his imagined superiority trigger an instant negative emotional reaction and denial.
  • A proud person is often envious of others and believes that others must be envying him. Since a proud person bases his happiness on his status, popularity, fame, or position, he assumes that others must be evaluating success based on such things and therefore must be envying his supposed success. When he sees others doing better and leading a happy life, even without things he uses to measure success, it makes him sad, jealous, and upset. So he tries to discredit and talk down to others. He is critical of others and rejoices in the downfall of those he envies.
  • A proud person tries to punch beyond his weight by pursuing a high-end career, home, vehicle, or a highly sought education not because he is capable or can afford it, but to showcase his alleged greatness. On the other hand, when humble people pursue those things, it is only because they can afford them, are capable, and enjoy what they are doing, perhaps as a hobby. Humble people have nothing to prove to others. They clearly know what they can do, but also, what they are not able to do. 
  • A humble person recognizes that everything he has is given to him and is not a product of his own work. Whether it's beauty, appearance, strength, intelligence, or talents, he recognizes that it is determined genetically and he didn't have any control over it. He may have been fortunate to be raised with good parents and a good background. He also recognizes that others may have inborn gifts in different ways, such as in music, arts, humor, or imagination that he doesn't have, and are happy to see others doing good with their talents. He doesn't compare himself with others.
  • A proud person dominates conversations and often brags, inflates his abilities, and boasts about his achievements. While not openly boasting, he may subtly make sure that others come to know of his strengths and achievements. In his eyes, only his opinion should matter and he is the one and only awesome personality in the room. He is offended when others interrupt him, even when others do that with good intentions or out of excitement. In contrast, a humble person is quick to listen, slow to speak, and does not indulge in self-advertising. He is mild-tempered and patient.
  • A proud person cannot stand any kind of joke about him in casual conversations. He takes it personally. However he may often make fun of others, but when others do the same to him, he is offended. He is hypersensitive to anything that comes across as negatively affecting his image and prestige.
  • A proud person pretends to be an expert in unrelated fields. He gives opinions on topics that he is not sure of. When someone talks about an interesting topic or personal experience, he may try to make their story less appealing by flaunting his own knowledge or superior experience. A humble person would rather let others talk, and when needed, only talks about things he knows, while also acknowledging things he doesn't know.
  • A humble person is less insecure or anxious about the past or future. Because he is not constantly worried about what others are thinking about him; it doesn't matter if others view him in high regard. Of course, that doesn't mean he is a jerk; he is considerate of others' feelings and strives to maintain a good relationship with everyone. But at the end of the day, his reputation among fellow mortal humans, who are nothing but a mere breath and a speck of dust, is not that important. 
  • A humble person is neither ambitious nor materialistic. So he is not working sixteen hours a day to become the next richest man or celebrity. This gives him more time to focus on other things that give him joy, and less stress in life. He knows that life is short, and there are other rewarding pursuits to focus on. He is content and satisfied with his provisions. On the other hand, since proud people set expectations so high for career, prestige, and material wealth and use them as a marker for success, when reality strikes, it leads to emotional pain, stress, and a dejected feeling that they are a failure.
  • A polite person is not necessarily humble. In some cultures, people naturally display politeness and deference as part of their etiquette and so appear to be unassuming on the outside, but it's not to be confused with humility. Their true color will come out sooner or later. A humble person respects others but doesn't get mad if others don't respect him in return. While respect from others is nice to have, it is not a necessity for his happiness. The absence of respect from others has no effect on a humble person's overall joy in life. Due to this reason, on first impression, a humble person may come across as rude, because he may treat others the way he is okay to be treated; a direct approach without any mock humility, fake politeness, or flattery. 
  • Age does not make a person humble, but true wisdom does. In fact, a person can become haughty as they age, like a chronic disease that is hard to get rid of, stabbing themselves with many pains. He may look down on young people and become insecure about giving up his cherished position to them. Conversely, as teenagers, many of us lacked the maturity and wisdom that result in humility, which explains why we can relate to being a bit arrogant in our younger days. But as time pass by, wisdom is gained through humbling life experiences, study, meditation, and prayer. 
  • A proud person is unwilling to do menial tasks and expects others to take care of him and comply with his wishes. He takes others for granted, never acknowledging others' good contributions in his life. He lacks genuine love for his close ones and can't empathize with their sufferings, even when it's caused by his own actions. He plays the victim card as a reason for his bad behavior and invokes self-pity to gain sympathy from others without taking responsibility for his actions. He is manipulative, he misuses and overreaches his authority, encroaching upon others' rights, responsibilities, or even possessions.
  • A humble person readily acknowledges his faults, apologizes, and won't hesitate to say "I am sorry" when needed. He knows that he is imperfect and makes mistakes. He forgives others and is eager to make peace, even when he is on the right. When someone corrects him, he doesn't worry that by accepting the counsel he somehow becomes less of a person. He tries to take correction objectively. He considers others superior to him in many ways. But others being better than him has nothing to do with his joy in life. In contrast, a proud person immediately gets into defensive mode. He is very insecure about accepting correction. He panics that it will affect his reputation amongst his peers and his future prospect of privileges and position. His inflated ego prevents him from making peace, and he hardens his neck. He is bitter; he harbors resentment and hatred for those he had issues with. 
  • A proud person may humiliate others publicly for their mistakes just to show his power, intelligence, and control. But if anyone dares to do the same back to him, he attacks them personally, bullying and blaming others for his own mistakes. A humble person is patient and talks privately to the person if something needs to be addressed.
  • A proud person does not like to genuinely praise others for their talents. He doesn't believe that other people can be better than him. So he often stamps others down by saying things like, "He is okay" or "He is mediocre". Even if he does praise others, it's not genuine, it's done only to get praise back in return. In contrast, a humble person offers genuine praise and does not expect anything in return. 
  • A humble person does not hold rich ones, celebrities, scientists, or those with positions of authority in adulation, undue respect, or awe. In other words, he does not idolize them as demigods, follow them as superhumans, or take their words as the ultimate authority on unrelated matters. He recognizes that their accomplishments in their respective fields are primarily due to the natural gifts they were bestowed with, whether it's talents, intelligence, beauty, or inherited wealth. They were fortunate to make good use of those gifts. All glory belongs to God who gave them such gifts. This insight prevents a humble person from showing favoritism to such people, making friendships with them for personal advantage, or becoming a sycophant to them; he treats everyone with impartiality.
  • A proud person may boast about his connections with influential people. He likes to hang out only with people that he considers being of his status or above. This is done mostly to prop up his self-worth and possibly to take advantage of them. He may say things like "You gotta hang out with the big shots". In contrast, a humble person has real friends. His friend circles are from all sorts of people, even if it is a few. Who would like to be hanging out with someone who is constantly bragging about oneself or one who is easily offended, and throwing tantrums? But humble people are easy to deal with so end up having real friends.
  • A humble person is also modest, he clearly knows his limitations. He knows exactly what he is capable of and is confident about it. But he also knows what he is not capable of. So he doesn't say "Yes" to any tasks people ask him to do. He does not put himself in an embarrassing situation where he is publicly humiliated for exaggerating his abilities. It also saves him an awful lot of time and from undue stress, because he is not forced to work hard on things he is not good at just to impress others.
  • A proud person rebels against authority, established laws, and order. He thinks nobody is above him, and there shouldn't be any. He stirs up the competition by knocking others down in organizations that he is a member of. He is determined to climb up the ladder. He covets others' positions and authority. He forgets that except for God, everyone else in the universe is under some form of authority and control. He fails to see that even in the secular world everyone is under the control of some authority or law; people are under the government and courts' authority, and in families, children are under their parent's authority. Even more, one cannot violate the authority of laws of nature, such as the law of gravity. One cannot have full control of his health or lifespan. There is no such thing as absolute freedom. A humble person is wise enough to recognize this and his limitation. Nobody can climb up the ladder beyond a certain point, and if left unleashed, there is no end to one's ambition. So a humble person is not having a rebellious or competitive spirit. He works within the boundaries of his freedom, is happy to be wherever in the hierarchy, and never thinks the boundary is too restrictive for his imagination or enjoyment in life.
  • A humble person is happy because he doesn't base happiness based on status, reputation, or position. Even if he hits rock bottom with those things, he has an inner joy and self-respect that cannot be taken away. His delight is in maintaining a good conscience, satisfying his intellectual and spiritual needs, enjoying the fruitage of his labor, having proper recreation, enjoying friendships and being benevolent and helpful to others. Those things are a constant source of joy, which cannot be taken away and provide a baseline of happiness. Anything more, such as appreciation from others or being respected in the community only adds on top of that baseline, like icing on the cake. In contrast, proud people can only put a pretense of happiness.
Finally, a humble person does not think he is truly humble or wise. So the first step toward humility is perhaps to be humble and wise enough to acknowledge that there is a problem. He recognizes that it's an ongoing challenge and a lifelong endeavor. He often reflects on what he did each day which may indicate an area that he needs to work on. To weed out pride, he ponders the real motivation behind his words and actions. He can recall various instances in life where he was prideful and regrets his conduct. Nobody on earth can be perfectly humble, so he forgives himself and others. He learns from his failures. From his standpoint, the more humble he is, the happier he is.

N.B: This is my personal take on this subject, so I could be wrong☺. I may revise this article when I have more thoughts on this. For the sake of brevity, I am using masculine pronouns, but it applies to both genders.