Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Virtue of Humility

the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.

Humility is espoused as a great virtue. I can't say how many times I have heard people praised for their humble nature, or conversely criticized for holding themselves too high in their own esteem, branded as arrogant or pompous. I wonder at what point do we end up sacrificing our confidence to meet the expectation of staying humble? In a world where many people are barely scraping by in the department of self esteem, where self image is already darkened with insecurity, and beliefs of being "not good enough" are epidemic, how does this concept of humility serve us in living our best lives? How does it help us step out of the shadows of self doubt and bring our gifts to life, to serve not only ourselves, but the world? The way we currently define this quality of humility forces us to downplay our talents, requires us to stay smaller than we really are, convinces many of us to remain followers even when we are called to lead, because it is the polite and right thing to do. This limiting ideal of humility affects some groups more than others, women and other minorities, those typically already in a power deficit, are additionally hindered by such humiliation. We were raised this way, educated and coached this way, society praises it and we pass it on to the next generation, just because that's how it has always been done.

In yoga we typically use the salutation, namaste, to begin and end practice. Namaste means, "The light or spirit in me, honors the light or spirit in you.".  It is a recognition of the essential goodness and wisdom that we all carry within us.

I think it is time to adjust our definition and application of humility to align with the truth, that we all possess this inner light, this essential goodness. What if we all were firmly grounded in the belief that every single person is worthy and valuable, that we all serve an important purpose in this journey we call life? I think the world needs more illumination, more inspiration , more brilliance. My greatest happiness would be to see my children discover the things that fill them with joy and excitement, light those torches up within themselves, stoke their sacred fire, and let it be seen in all directions, without ever feeling that they are required to hold anything back. By expanding the light that shines from within us we then can see others more clearly as well. Perhaps, instead of needing to cut ourselves, or others down, so as not to appear inflated, we can discover a way to rise together.

Why shouldn't humility be about elevating and expanding instead of withholding and diminishing?

Humility should be the virtue of knowing that you have purpose and brilliance in you, and so does everyone else. No one person is above another, we are all entitled to express our unique and important purpose in life, whatever that may be. More love, less judgment. More confidence, less fear. More yes, less no.

We are all beautiful, unique, gifted, feeling, talented, beings of light and spirit. We all are needed and we all have value. The problem is, for many of us, that knowledge is never imparted, our torches don't get lit, we are not helped along. We need to help ourselves, but additionally, we need to bring each other up, we need to invest in each other's success and well being. Mastery and achievement are certainly of value and should be recognized and celebrated, but those who have attained mastery, and who have achieved excellence, those who are leaders, can embody humility, not by downplaying their accomplishment, but through generous service; by sharing their gifts and utilizing them to inspire others to shine.

Maybe I am being an idealist here, but I know there is truth in this ideal. I believe we can move towards this enlightenment. I pray for it.

“A thousand candles can be lighted from the flame of one candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness can be spread without diminishing that of yourself.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

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