I read a quote somewhere for my religion homework today that said something along the lines of, “If you think you have humility, you don’t.” I’ve been reading about humility in this book, The Road to Character (which by the way is where 99% of the quotes in this post are from so just assume that’s it for citation purposes). I’ve found so many interesting things in this wonderful collection of words.
“They had to descend into the valley of humility to climb the heights of character.” A lot of times we see people and think what a character they are. But what does that mean? Take Jennifer Lawrence for example. She has a lot of character and many view her as humble, but I don’t think she’s a prime example. She’s certainly portrayed as more humble than other celebrities but she’s not like the people exemplified in this book. Dorothea Day, it says, wore donated clothes and slaved alongside others to serve people even more unfortunate than herself and still, she had to catch herself because she’d find herself looking forward to and seeking gratitude for what she was doing.
Dictionary.com defines humility as a “modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance.” That sums it up pretty well and by that standard, to the world, people probably seem more humble than they truly are. Still, I think the answer of what humility is lies deeper.
I was sitting with a friend the other day at a dance show and he commented on how he had a problem with prideful dancers. He said he tried his best not to be one and then pointed out examples in our friend group of people who were and were not. He told me I was not and that I was fun to dance with. His counter to being a prideful dancer was being a fun dancer. The thing is, I seem myself as a prideful dancer. I’m a Ballroom Snob who tells people no to dancing with them sometimes at dance nights purely for the selfish reason that I don’t want to have to suffer through an awkward tango or look stupid in front of my friends doing only the box basic in waltz. I’m a snob and I know it. I used to suck and my friends struggled through dances with me and now, I won’t always do the same for others (Most of the time I say yes—I do have some semblance of social courtesy). Many of my friends who are better dancers than me will also say no to less experienced dancers, which by my definition, makes them a snob as well. A couple of these “snobs” are included in the mental list of kindest people I know, yet they’re still snobs.
I find that there’s a fine line between pride and humility. One of the best dancers/kindest people I know exemplifies this to me. He is an amazing dancer and he knows he’s good. He will stand by that talent and his knowledge of it until the day he dies. He doesn’t put himself down. But he also recognizes that there are many better than him and he has room to improve. He’s humble enough to know he still has more to learn, but proud enough that he’s sure in his ability and will say no to dancing with people (But he will say yes to teaching or turn the teaching over to someone he knows, likes and trusts—like me—to help).
Still, another of my dance friends is so kind and patient. I have the utmost respect for him and his everlasting goodness. I’ve never see him raise his voice in frustration or anger, and he compliments everyone around him. He teaches so much of dance, but also teaches through his example. He is without a doubt one of the people I look to for an example of humility and although he’s an amazing dancer, he’d never say so, but rather thank you sincerely if you told him so.
This book has taught me so many things about being humble and the people make me want to better myself. The book explains that we are self-centered. Literally everything happens around YOU. You are with yourself literally all the time (something else I’ve been very conscious of lately). You are always in your mind. All of your experiences are yours, the way you see them. The book talks about how our world today is based so much on “finding yourself” and “being true to yourself” and “chasing your dreams. Maybe what this world needs though is simply to be. Simply to live in the conveyor belt of cheerful idiots. Because it we’re all trying to be craftsmen and chase our outlandish dreams and spend years finding ourselves, who’s going to keep the world running with all of it’s working parts? Maybe we need to stop focusing so much on changing things and maintain what is, changing little by little. It’s about us. It really is. We come to this earth with our agency, determined to determine our destiny. But so much of what happens relies on others. If we’re so busy finding ourselves, what happens to the person in front of us that just fell and scrapped their knee?
I’m reminded of a video of spoken word poetry where the message is simply to look up from your cellphone so that you don’t miss life passing you by. I think part of humility requires us to be in the moment and not so much in your own head.
“Humility is freedom from the need to prove you are superior all the time…Humility is the awareness that there’s a lot you don’t know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong.” It’s not just being modest, it’s accepting yourself as a figure that won’t be perfect until after the resurrection. We’re here to make mistakes and that’s okay.
“Truly humble people are engaged in a great effort to magnify what is best in themselves and defeat what is worst, to become strong in weak places.” Being humble encompasses standing strong. It encompasses making a difference and being courageous. It is standing firm in the faith.
“Self-respect is not the same as self-confidence or self-esteem.” Perhaps this explains my friend and why he can be seen as both proud and humble. He knows the difference between these and he knows where he stands, but he isn’t afraid to stop and help someone lesser in a particular skill than him. And he will recognize the better.
“We’re not bad. But we are morally inarticulate.”
Give a hug, ladybug!