How To Be Truly Humble

Here’s a fortune cookie and an abstract thought for you all in one.

“True humility is the knowledge that one can never be truly humble.”

If you don’t understand that one, don’t fret.  I won’t be able to explain it to you so that you can feel the meaning of it in your heart in a few sentences in a blog.  It’s something I’ve come to understand over time, and I mean a lot of time.  I used to think humility is what you felt when you drank all night, made a fool out of yourself, and had to be told the next day what you did to make a fool out of yourself because you didn’t remember.  But people would give you that look.  You know the one I’m talking about.  Or maybe you don’t.  It was the look that said, “There he is!  That’s the guy that did that stuff last night!”  For someone like me who craves being the center of attention, it was certainly attention alright, but not exactly the attention I was looking for.  Still, it was attention.  And attention is attention.  So if that’s the only way you know how to get it, then that’s what you keep doing, over and over and over, until, well, it doesn’t work for you anymore.

Yep that was the kind of humility I knew.  The kind that kept landing me in the same place over and over, wondering why I kept winding up in that place.  It was a lack of balance, when you come right down to it.  I had no idea how to get the attention I so desperately needed in a less self-destructive manner.  So time after time I wound up humiliated.  The way I delt with it was to just not be around people anymore.  I decided that I needed to be alone for the rest of my life, and the way I was acting, I think a lot of people agreed with me.

Well, that didn’t work so well either.  Because then my only critic was me.  I was really hard on myself.  I still am.  But at least when I was with other people who were as self-centered as I was I had some camaraderie in our self-centerdness.  I eventually had to make some drastic changes in my life, and those changes have led me on the quest for perfect humility.  Wait?  Ummmm…  Like I said, if you don’t get it, you don’t get it.  Keep reading anyway.  It will all be OK.

Humility, as I’ve come to find out is something completely different than humiliation.  With most problems in life, as the one I was speaking about above, I lacked a sense of balance.  To quote a very good book, “I utterly lacked the ability to form a true partnership with another human being.”  Don’t go looking in your bible folks.  It’s a different good book.  If you don’t know what book, and you want to know what book, send me an email.  Anyway, it doesn’t really matter.  That was my problem.  I just didn’t know how to get along, with people, with work, with anything or anyone.  Not even plants.  I killed several of those.  Seriously.  “Ah, it can go a couple more days without water.  I know, because it’s a Chia Pet and I’m an expert.”  All of it came down to one simple, but extremely complex thing.  Humility.

To explain humility, or what it means to me, is easier to do with examples rather than just defining what the word means.  To me, humility means balance, which I’ve already eluded to.  I didn’t know balance.  I knew extremes.  I still know extremes.  I just don’t wander in their direction as often anymore, but I certainly know where they are.

Let’s take one extreme.  The person who only cares about themselves and their own problems.  Yeah, that was pretty much me for most of my life.  Still is sometimes.  Some would call this person selfish, self-centered, self-important, and pretentious.  They’d be right.  This person may at times pretend like they care, but they don’t.  Ultimately it’s all about them, and as long as things go the way they want them to they are perfectly happy.  This person utterly lacks humility.

Then there is the other extreme.  The person who cares nothing of themselves.  They are constantly serving others, doing what pleases others, putting their needs last.  Some would call this person selfless, other-centered, self-unimportant, and altruistic.  They’d be wrong.  That’s right.  You read that correctly.  THEY’D BE WRONG!  Now, I’m not saying this person doesn’t have good intentions most of the time, but so does the person at the other extreme.  The selfishness here is much more subtle, and I’m sure I’m going to get some hateful comments about this.  But at the extreme, this person can be an enabler, a codependant, and yes, I’m going to say it, selfish.  In fact, they could be even more selfish than the person at the other extreme.

How is this possible?  Because they are missing a huge part of the equation which comes with being able to form a true partnership with another human being.  They have forgotten that they are human, they have problems, they have needs, and that people love them.  Stay with me here, I’m not talking about everyone, just the extremes.  People in this state sometimes believe that the only way they can be loved is to be selfless, other-centered, self-unimportant and altruistic.  They forget that the people that love them want to be there for them, and feel a bond with them when they are being their for them.  They have utterly forgotten that a relationship goes both ways, they utterly lack humility.

So, before you stop reading and send a hateful comment, this is just a reminder that the person I was describing above was an extreme.  I was in no way saying it is bad under all circumstances to help others, to be there for others, to care for others, and to show others you love them through the actions that you take.  I’m just saying, sometimes it is your turn to receive, and when it is, be accepting of the help that is being offered to you.

So what is true humility?  It is balance.  It is the ability to be selfish and selfless at the same time.  It is the ability to understand that you don’t have all of the answers to life’s problems, but you do have some of the answers, and when you do have the answers you should share them.  It is the ability to know what answers you have and what answers you don’t have.  It is the ability to know when people want you to give them answers and when they don’t.  It is the ability to know when to ask for help, and when asking for help may be putting too much of a burden on a loved one.  It is the ability to know when to give and when to receive.  So who does this perfectly?  Raise your hand!  I don’t see any hands.  Well, probably because I’m sitting here typing this in an empty house at 11:15 PM on a Wednesday night, and the only ones that are looking at me are my cats, and they don’t have hands, they have paws.

I’ll bet nobody raised there hand though.  The reason for that is simple and the answer to my original question.  It is impossible to be truly humble.  Now I didn’t say it was impossible to be humble.  I said it was impossible to be truly humble.  To be humble, all you have to do is try.  All you have to do is admit when you are wrong, learn from your mistakes, and hopefully do better next time.  Humility is the knowledge of true humility and the quest for it, with the understanding that as a human being, you will never find it.

When you are living you life at one of the extremes, and you are finding yourself becoming more and more alone either because of the demands you are making on others or because you won’t allow people close enough to help you when you need it, you are not living a humble life.

When you are living your life at one of the extremes, and you are finding that you don’t need people because they always disappoint you, or you are trying so hard to hold on to them or serve them that you are giving more than you have to give at the risk of your own health and sanity, you are not living a humble life.

When your life is going in circles, and you keep winding up in the same place over and over, not knowing how you got there, think about humilty.  Think about the fact that you are human.  Then ask for guidance, because there is another way to live.  There is the way of humility, and forming true partnerships with many human beings, and if you are spiritual, with God as well.

Wow it’s late.  Time for bed.  Good night.

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