“A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” Albert Einstein
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” Mahatma Gandhi
“I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.” An Anonymous Abbess
“Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self-worth. Rather it affirms the inherent worth of all persons. Some would consider humility to be a psychological malady that interferes with “success.” However, wealth, power or status gained at the expense of others brings only anxiety- never peace and love.” Commentary on Christian Bible Reference Site
Humility, among other things, is the absence of arrogance. One of the ways I am most likely to be arrogant is to hold on to a belief that I am right and others are wrong. I may verbalize my opinion and then stay silent, but internally I am very likely to be holding on to my rightness.
Two situations from the past come to mind when I think of ways I’ve worked on this issue:
Decades ago a friend, who later became a brahmacharini (female monk) told me it had been a year since she had gone for Amma’s darshan (Amma gives her blessing, called darshan, in the form of a hug). While I could understand not indulging in the desire to go to Amma as often as one wanted to, as well as the desire to find that which Amma represents inside oneself, I still couldn’t imagine living in Amma’s ashram and not receiving her hug for such a long period. I pondered her decision many times over the years. One day, I mentioned it to her and she responded, “It wasn’t a year, it was six months.” My immediate internal response was “No it wasn’t, you told me it was a year.” At the time, I wasn’t willing to entertain any other possibility. As I reflected on her statement later though, I realized that it was much more likely that SHE would know how long she had waited than I did. As much as I hated to admit it, even to myself, I was wrong.
My son Sreejit and I have different memories of an event that happened during his teenage years. His version makes no sense to me. Mine, of course, makes perfect sense! While I still sometimes have the desire to prove to him that I am right, I know that is not going to happen. A higher part of me believes that in actuality there is truth in both of our memories and what really happened is somewhere in-between his memory and mine.
It seems to me that the journey towards humility, as it relates to my desire to be right and have everyone agree with me, will have numerous stages.
- Believing I am right and making sure others know it.
- Being willing to remain silent even though I believe I am right.
- Being willing to take the attitude that the truth is in the middle; I may be partially right, but I am also partially wrong.
- Being willing to admit to myself that I am wrong.
- Being willing to admit to others that I was wrong.
- No longer thinking in terms of right and wrong.
I suspect I will cycle through these different stages many times during my life, depending on the issue with which I am dealing.
May I continue to progress on this life-long journey towards humility.
Written for Dungeon Prompts: Humbling Ourselves