When we lack humility, we may often find ourselves humiliated. The challenge is that most of us want to feel that we have some power and importance in our own lives. The idea of lowering our importance to grow as a person may seem to go against our will to thrive and survive.
Practicing humility makes us teachable, and therefore wiser. It makes us better listeners and therefore more valuable friends. It allows us to examine ourselves and our personal traits without shame or judgment. It helps us get to know ourselves like never before. And, it opens up our hearts to the voice of God.
Humility is required to take the first step in my previous post, How to Change Who You Are:
Take responsibility for your actions as actions, not as a definition of who you are. This allows you to make objective, non-judgmental observations of yourself that lead to motivated activities rather than paralysis from shame.
What is humility?
Oxford American Dictionary defines humility as “a modest or low view of one’s own importance.” When we talk about humility as a spiritual principle, we’re talking about developing an honest, accurate and objective view of our importance in the universe. We might say that, through humility, we are developing an understanding of God’s view of us as individuals.
Humility is not low self-esteem. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. With humility, our self-esteem is not attached to our personal traits, physical appearance, wealth, shortcomings, assets or our past. Instead it is attached to the design of our creator who created us with a purpose and gives us the power to fulfill that purpose. With humility, we view ourselves as equals with other human beings.
Someone who practices humility rarely feels insecure or self-conscious. They unflinchingly take credit for that which they are responsible and give credit for that which they are not. Their self-esteem is stable and they are secure with who they are. They feel no need for competition. They learn from the opinions of others, but are not shaken by them.
How to be humble
- Be grateful for your assets. In humility, we recognize the great qualities and assets that we have, but we don’t boast about them. Instead, we are grateful for them as gifts we have been given. Think about all the things you like about yourself and those things others like about you. Do you have intelligence, motivation, charm or some other great qualities? Express gratitude for those qualities and you will find humility.
- Be grateful for your challenges and shortcomings. If you struggle with feeling that you are less motivated, less attractive or less intelligent than others, be grateful for the perspective and learning experience that apparent shortcoming offers you. Life is about growth and change. Every challenge we face builds our character and our assets. When we express gratitude for the challenges we face, those challenges lose their power over our perception of ourselves and become building blocks we can grow on.
- Do not compare yourself with others. Human Beings are the most diverse and variable creatures on the planet. Comparing one person to another is like comparing apples to green beans. It is this uniqueness that allows us to learn and grow from one another. You were created like no one else in the universe. You were created with a purpose that is shared with no one else. When you compare yourself with someone else, you could not possibly see what God sees in you.
- Be teachable. The key to wisdom is to be teachable, to realize that you do not know everything, that many things you believe to be true may be false, and that you have much to learn from others. See my posts, Be Teachable – Avoid Growing Old and Stubborn and Hold Beliefs Loosely, for more on this topic.
- Practice kindness anonymously. When you practice kindness, you transcend the high-anxiety world of selfishness and experiencing the fulfilling sense of oneness with others. When you practice kindness anonymously, you share the vision of your kindness only with God without the distractions of pride and self-importance which may result from sharing your kindness publicly.
- Loosen your expectations. No matter how good you are at making plans or predicting outcomes, no matter how strong your belief is that something should be a certain way, life will often produce results you did not expect or did not want. When we hold tight to expectations, we become easily frustrated, disappointed, angry and humiliated. When we take ourselves and our expectations less seriously, we can more easily handle what life hands us and move out of God’s way as we are guided on our unique life journey.