My Journey Towards Humility

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“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.

  1. Believing I am right and making sure others know it.
  2. Being willing to remain silent even though I believe I am right.
  3. Being willing to take the attitude that the truth is in the middle; I may be partially right, but I am also partially wrong.
  4. Being willing to admit to myself that I am wrong.
  5. Being willing to admit to others that I was wrong.
  6. 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

26 thoughts on “My Journey Towards Humility

  1. This sure struck a cord with me! We are cleaning out the remnants of our belongings as we finalize our journey towards becoming minimalists. My husband found an item and told me about it. I disagreed and said no we had already given it to our daughter. How foolish of me to even think that he could be wrong, as he is cleaning out the storage locker.! And then I read this. I am on the journey with you!

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  2. Humility is one of those things I always feel I am striving for but never feel I’ve reached. I felt reassured by your picture of the journey to humility and its cycles. Even if I seem to have gone “backwards” at times, I will keep progressing as long as I am willing to stay with the journey.

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  3. uh hum… I can’t vocalize my thoughts about certain subjects in this post considering that the post is about humility… but, I’m sure we all understand each other. (I am always right. didn’t you get the memo. I wrote about it in my last post.) so, um… nice. 🙂

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  4. Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, as featured here, is the ultimate act of humility one can visualize, Karuna, signifying the absence of not only arrogance but also even the tiniest vestige of ego. It is, as an act, played out by the clergy more as a ritual prior to Good Friday. True humility is the sign of ‘Jgnaani’, in whom knowledge rests lightly, from whom the light of wisdom radiates to dispel the surrounding gloom. What one feels strongly is right, may not always be fully so, and, the wise man, even when he is right, states his case assertively without being offensive. Precisely why humility attracts, whereas arrogance repels…best wishes.

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    1. I also think Jesus washing the disciples’ feet goes far beyond absence of right-wrong. I think it also has meaning in our day. I’ve been part of events where people wash each others feet. It is a profound experience.

      For many years Amma did her NYC programs in a church where the mural behind the altar was of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. Watching Amma hug people hour after hour, day after day with that picture in the background was also very moving.

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  5. You are right. The reality of divinity expressing itself through otherwise ordinary beings like Sree Narayana Guru, Shirdi Sai Baba, St. Peter, Ramkrishna Paramahamsa and now Amma, is clearly indicative of Almighty’s preference for the humble and ordinary in the society as instruments to project extra-ordinary powers of the divine spirit..

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  6. Your photo sets the stage for a lovely humbling reflection. I did not expect less. I wrote mine last Thursday but so busy with work and my new guest…my daughter’s step son had a sleepover with me for the first time…lovely time…so nice feeding an eight year old that is a foodie:)

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    1. I look forward to reading your piece… I’m leading a therapy intensive this weekend so it will be later! Your sleepover sounds fun. Normally I don’t get involved in the food at our intensives but this time I’m bringing the applesauce and ice cream I’ve been making……

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  7. I likeyour point about no longer thinking in terms of wrong or right. I am working on attaining that level of detachment too but it can be different to maintain when confronted with abusive or criminal behaviour.

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    1. I have no problem sticking with right and wrong thinking when it comes to abusive or criminal behavior. I know we both know that there are reasons why people do things like that, but it doesn’t make the behavior right.

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  8. Staying silent even when believing I am right has alway seemed easier when dealing with friends and family. It was a totally different story in the workplace where I was more inclined to believe that I was right and let everyone know it. In this season of life, I am striving “toward something in the middle.” Thank you for sharing.

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    1. I’ve been pondering your words since I read them. I think I was vocal about my rightness both at home and at work. My guess is that due to my introverted nature that I would be more likely to stay silent at work.

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