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Aug
21

How To Practice Humility

Humility is the only true wisdom by which we prepare our minds for all the possible changes of life.
-George Arliss

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.

About the author

Danny

I am Danny Kohn, writer and designer for this site and owner, software engineer and consultant for Inspirations Software Design. My three greatest passions in life are sharing time with my family, software design and sharing inspiration with others. I have the incredible privilege of being able to spend a significant amount of time every day doing each of those three things. I am a single father of Tristen, our 6 year old son. It has been such an incredible joy to watch him grow up and learn so much. Everything he does and says overwhelms me with adoration. We have a wonderful evening ritual of reading books together in a beanbag chair. Nearly every night, we have a laughing attack together. I smile and giggle constantly in his presence and feel truly inspired.

Permanent link to this article: http://beinspiredeveryday.com/2009/08/21/how-to-practice-humility/

16 comments

4 pings

  1. Melissa says:

    Although I may not be able to send you money as I just got fired due to personality traits that I know but just can’t seem to change despite reading numerous books. I’d just like to say that you do not know just how much I (and those who have to be around me) needed your website. Thankyou. May God bless you.

  2. Bob Henderson says:

    I do enjoy this and would like to recieve this information and oth from you . Thank you for being here for me.

  3. confused cooker says:

    Did I miss something? I am still waiting for the practices in humility. These are for kindness, patience, yaddah yaddah yaddah…

    humility?

    1. Danny says:

      @confused cooker – Thanks for the feedback. I get a feeling that either we have very different definitions of humility or you read the sub-titles of the article without reading the details. As I mentioned above, humility is about detaching your self-worth from your surrounding circumstances, posessions, accomplishments, etc. “Kindness, patience, yaddah yaddah yaddah…” and gratitude are essential elements of humility. As I explain in the article, by practicing those principles, you will find humility.

  4. JERRI MALONE says:

    THANKS I NEEDED THAT WONDERFUL FEED BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. mishi says:

    thank you for this inspiring article. it takes a great commitment to really and continue to inspire others. i do agreed that we fail to see the masterpiece God created in us when we always compare ourselves to others. we allow ourselves to be consumed with these thoughts that we tend not to appreciate the beauty that we have. the decision that you have letting others see life in a different perspective is truly remarkable….may you continue to do these wonderful things because indeed you help others realize the true meaning and purpose of their existence…

    1. Danny says:

      Thanks for the kind words Mishi! I love writing articles that help people find inspiration, and getting great feedback like this makes it that much more rewarding. :)

  6. God'swill says:

    Hi Danny, am a teen in Nigeria. I’ve found out that lowering yourself to others is almost like low self-worth especially among teenagers as they will take u for granted. How do i cope with this please?

    1. Danny says:

      @God’swill – Humility can be an extreme challenge when were surrounded by insecure and proud people. Especially among teenagers. I haven’t forgot what that was like. Most teenagers haven’t matured enough to seek out humility much less attempt to understand it. You are a rare and gifted soul.
      Humility does not have to be a lowering of oneself. It is about separating yourself from your image, especially in the eyes of others. When humility is practiced well, the opinions of others hold little importance to you, and ironically, over time, people tend to respect you more. Those who would otherwise be disrespectful will steer away from you when they see that their disrespect has little affect on you.
      However, when practicing humility, it is still important to set boundaries and hold firm to them. If certain people are disrespectful to you or choose to take you for granted, spend as little time with those people as possible and spend most of your time with those you can share mutual respect. This doesn’t mean that you can not offer kindness to those who are disrespectful, doing so will help to teach them respect, but it should be done on your terms when you feel called to offer it.
      I hope that helps, and I wish you the best. You may have a difficult journey, but one that can help you build strong character and principles.

  7. Working on It! says:

    I’m am very grateful for this site and have been working to achieve humility. My struggle is that I have been doing lots of charity work and can’t stop feeling that I’m being taken advantage of. Others take credit for my work and this makes me sooo angry. I have decided not to call those folks on the fact because it would be petty, confrontational, and not humble. I’m guessing this is humility but are you supposed to let yourself be wronged by others and let it go? Or fight and stand up for yourself?

    1. danny says:

      @Working – This is a difficult balance. As humble people, we don’t want people to walk all over us. It is also a disservice to others for us to enable their non-humble behavior by allowing them to take credit for our work. Here are a couple ideas from one humility seeker to another:

      • Be conscious of your own intentions when you approach someone. Do it from a place of caring and humility rather than anger and defensiveness.
      • If you’re too angry to be objective, give yourself time to cool off first.
      • Choose not to take their actions personally by realizing that their behaviors are a reflection of their own shortcomings and not yours.
      • Question their behavior with a curious mindset rather than a confrontational one. Say, “I noticed you did/said …. Are you aware that ….? I’m not comfortable with that.” Rather than, “Why would you do …. That pisses me off!”
      • Practice patience. It is almost always the case that meaningful & valuable contributions are noticed in time.

      I hope that helps.

      1. Bob Henderson says:

        I’m grateful to recieve these as I always need reminders of this topic. I’m in Alcoholics Anonymous and have had to pracyice this since I’ve been in . With out the pracice of this I couldn’t stayed slean and soberad gained a wounderful life as I have been given by the grac of “God” AA and the 12 steps and 12 traditions and the fellowship and prayers and help from many others in and out of recovery .I thank “God” I had and by “His” grace still have the willingness to practice this in any way I am directed to by “God” and through others . Thank you and please continue to send these. Bob Henderson

  8. Shellz says:

    Thank you so much for the practical help I needed for so long. I had come across this word hundreds of times without knowing what it really meant or involved. I had been abused growing up. This has led to certain perceptions I hold today so instead of the humility I needed to be practicing I kept trying to please people and was affected by their opinions of me. I was led today to this scripture in Romans 12: 16-17 and just knew it was for me! I am very competitive and try to be the best I can be but I now realize that it was for the wrong motives. I always had a judgmental, suspicious and critical mind on others and their actions which resulted in poor relationships over the years. I hope I may apply these and change the person I’ve become. Thanks again! Everyone needs a dose of humility!

  9. Den says:

    Hi! Danny,
    It was a great article thank you very much. It is really true or I agree that “to improve ourselves, we must have the “HUMILITY” and “HONESTY” to look at ourselves objectively and self-discipline to learn from our mistakes.

  10. gigi says:

    I am working on change with anger and comparing my self how do I become humble

  11. uduakobong amaku says:

    Wow! thanks a lot,i have learnt so much from this.Trying hard to practise it.

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