Humility is a hard word to define, but even harder to put into practice.
For me, even writing about humility takes a bit of humility. It’s something that has been practiced by humanity’s greatest teachers and thinkers for thousands of years.
The Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, even Albert Einstein – they, and many more, have lived and breathed the practice of humility. But, if you are a seeker of wisdom, you probably are already practicing this important virtue.
So, what is it, exactly?
Some say it’s thinking of others as better than yourself. Some, like C.S. Lewis, say that it’s thinking of yourself less. Some say it’s simple modesty.
So which of them is it? The answer is – yes. All of the above. But, it starts when you empty yourself. It starts when we realize that we are not entitled to anything, we are nothing of ourselves, and there is something bigger than ourselves at every turn.
This self-emptying makes you super honest with yourself and your environment. In fact, honesty might be the key sign that you possess humility. Through humility, you know exactly who are, what you are good at, and what you may not be totally awesome at.
And that is the beginning of wisdom.
Without getting too much into it too quickly, I’ll dive into the 7 Reasons…
1. The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing
Albert Einstein posited that the more you know, the more humble you become. Socrates was quoted to say, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
There’s a pattern there. From humility, we realize that we don’t know everything. Then we become curious. We ask questions. We learn.
Then, the more we learn and the more we apply what we learn, the better we get at life. That is wisdom – knowing what to do to create the life we want for ourselves, our family and our world.
Eventually we start to form a habit of learning. We purposely empty ourselves, so that we can learn more and do better.
I love nothing more than receiving a powerful insight during study or in life. It’s exhilarating. It becomes a thirst. It makes me realize that I, in fact, know very little and must learn more.
Try it out. Start asking questions, if you don’t already. Hard questions. Make it a habit. You will see stellar results in all areas of your life.
2. Humility helps you care less about who is right or wrong
When you desire wisdom, you don’t care where it comes from. You are okay with being proven wrong, because that’s an opportunity to learn. There are lessons in failure.
Sometimes you will be the one with the key piece of wisdom to guide a situation. Sometimes you won’t. Humility teaches you not to care about who wins.
3. Humility helps you understand that you, and everything around you, can always improve
Sometimes it takes a hard life lesson – reaching rock-bottom – to learn humility. That’s how it was for me. I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I wanted to find my own way, do my own thing, because I was “destined for greatness”.
Bad move! I was almost homeless, having been evicted from my apartment… I lost everything. My decisions also alienated a lot of people in the process.
It was hard. But eventually I learned. I learned that I didn’t really know anything. And up to that point, I didn’t want to learn anything that would actually change me.
Humility is the pride-killer. It shows you that you don’t know much. But, then you become open to learn. More teachable. You want your character to improve.
Even if you don’t hit rock-bottom, humility still helps you be honest with yourself enough to say, “I don’t know as much as I thought. I need to do some digging to get better at this.”
4. Humility stops you from taking things for granted
Humility makes you grateful. We are not entitled to anything and everything has a price. Nothing is permanent. Realizing this makes you grateful – and that takes humility.
How is that wisdom? I’ll answer that with a rhetorical question:
Is it better to lose something that you didn’t even see the value of,
or gain something because you took the time to appreciate and cultivate it?
When you are grateful for something, you are more likely to keep that thing (and other things like it!), in your life.
Gratitude attracts more of what you’re grateful for. I would rather have good things grow in my life. That’s not to say that if you are grateful, you will never lose the things you value. You probably will, at some point in your life.
But, you will feel good that you were grateful for that thing you lost. How many times have we beat ourselves up for not appreciating a loved one enough that passed away? Also, you will stay positive in situations where you’ve lost something, so that you are better able to move forward.
5. Humility helps you treat people the way they should be treated
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s hard to put others first, but the future of humanity depends on how much we value each other. Sounds dramatic, but I think it’s true.
When you humble yourself, you are better able to see the true value of others. This creates trust, and trust is the foundation for a cohesive, peaceful, and happy society. That’s a great responsibility. However you treat people influences how they treat others. What you give, is given.
So, every time we treat people with love and respect, we are literally re-creating our world for the better. And that is awesome.
6. Humility gives you your best weapon to achieve success
We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility. – Rabindranath Tagore
There are so many ways that this is true:
- Humility shows you that your way may not be the best way to succeed.
- Humility creates confidence, because you are honest with yourself about what you can actually do well. And confidence will take you far.
- Humility helps you gain influence with others. You become the kind of person that people want to listen to and follow.
7. “Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” – Confucius
When you’re honest about yourself and your environment, you see how they both can improve. You’ll see opportunities.
You’ll see parts of your character that need the most work – whether it be patience, compassion or something else.
Even in your career, you’ll be better able to say, “Wow, I could do this and this and this better”. Or, “Our company isn’t that great at ________. But if I help fix it, that would help the company out a lot!”
Featured photo credit: albumarium.com via albumarium.com