It started with a dream. The dream consisted of nothing but the words, “YOU DON”T KNOW THE MEANING OF HUMILITY”. When I awakened from the dream, I went and got my handy New World Dictionary. It said, “A state of being humble; absence of pride or self-assertion”. It wasn’t a bad idea, but it didn’t help me because I already knew the definition of the word, but it doesn’t tell me the meaning of humility. Over the years I have thought about this dream enough times to have come to some sort of conclusion as to the meaning of humility. I may never achieve it in this lifetime.My favorite expression of a philosophy of life is DESIDERATA by Max Ehrmann. The line which applies to humility is “If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” While I have learned to accept those with more agility, intelligence, quickness of mind, etc. without becoming bitter, I haven’t reached a point of acceptance of the equality of those who do not read and comprehend as well as I do without feeling a bit snobbish.
It is my perception that each of us has come into this lifetime to learn something and it is a matter of our own choosing. Intellectual capacity would then seem to be a requisite for learning whatever our choice may be and therefore is a function of the physical existence. I have deduced that we are all equal before coming into this physical existence of limitedness and that we have made a choice as to the level of intelligence we need in order to experience whatever it is we have chosen to learn. I am assuming that we are in a state of total knowingness before coming into this existence since it would be spiritual. It is only when we come into a physical world that we are limited in our capacity to know what we knew before leaving the spiritual state. Our challenge then is to overcome the limitations and return to the spiritual without letting the body die. Of course, I could be wrong.
If I base my evaluation of my fellow humans on what I have said in the previous paragraph, then I have no reason to feel superior or inferior to anyone. However, being raised by a pair of parents who taught me to judge others based on their beliefs or actions, I have to overcome all those early teachings. Like anyone else, I don’t turn them loose without kicking and screaming because it takes me out of my comfort zone. My siblings have never even considered clearing themselves of the teachings from our childhood. All of them are willing to let someone else do their thinking and they just follow without putting any effort into determining whether what they are accepting is justified or valid in any context. This is when I have the greatest problem in not feeling superior. For example, my older sister and my brother are both Tea Party republicans who listen only to Fox News and conservative radio talk shows. They never have an original idea and they never question what they hear.
A person I trusted once told me that anything written was someone’s opinion and that it would be biased according to their life experiences. Because of this I have chosen to question anything I hear or read that has to do with the human experience. My favorite questions are: How does he know? Who told him that was true? What is his motive in proposing that? Why is that important to him? Why does he think I need to believe it just because he does?
Snobbishness seems to be an integral part of my character. When I was young and not questioning any of the things I was taught, I frequently felt superior to those who did not believe as I did. I felt superior to those who were not as fortunate as I or who were not as well educated. I really got a bad case of snobbery when I received my Master’s degree since there is such a small percentage of the population that ever achieves that level of education. In reality I had simply managed to stay in school long enough and learned enough to pass the courses presented in order to achieve that level of education and it didn’t do a thing to make me superior to anyone. The achievement could be accomplished by anyone with the determination to make it happen.
Mid-life crisis time was when I finally stopped living my life long enough to think about what I believed and start questioning why I believed it. I was in my mid-forties and have had a tremendous amount of rethinking and relearning since then. Currently I have achieved an understanding that I know nothing that is of any particular benefit to anyone in the world except myself. I am aware that I am in no way superior or inferior to anyone else, but I am still in this world and I still have feelings of being smarter than those who do not realize they must think for themselves in order to keep from being duped. A lifetime of feelings doesn’t just go away because you learn they may not be true. Knowing something doesn’t mean you have become what you know. Perhaps I will remain a snob for the duration of this lifetime.
Another part of humility is a lack of wanting recognition. A person who is truly humble does not seek recognition of his or her accomplishments. Humble people perform acts of kindness or assistance without the recipients knowing who their benefactor may have been. Truly humble people do not receive accolades because their deeds are performed only to satisfy themselves. The ability to help someone without them or anyone else knowing is something I would like to achieve. However, I look at the diplomas and plaques hanging on my wall and know that I like for people to know I have accomplished something or performed some service that was appreciated.
My blood type is O negative (O-). The actual people who receive the blood I donate have no idea who the donor is, but I receive recognition from the blood bank personnel. I also get a t-shirt every time I donate so I can let others know I donated. This is not being humble. This leaves my donations to charity being an act of humility for me. I donate to the Salvation Army and I always donate cash so my name is not known. My reason for doing so is to keep me from receiving requests for donations and has nothing to do with being humble.
There is a third part of being humble I must mention and that has to do with accepting life as it happens and not placing blame when things don’t go your way. My favorite example of this occurred following the Cotton Bowl football game on January 1, 1964. The two teams playing in the game were Navy (9-1) and Texas (10-0). Navy had the Heisman trophy winning quarterback on their team and his name was Roger Staubach. At the time, he was known as Roger the dodger because of his ability to scramble and make plays happen. Navy was favored to win because they had beaten some big schools that year. When the dust settled, Texas owned the scoreboard 28-7. A reporter asked Roger Staubach after the game, “What happened?” Roger said just six words, “We played a better team today.” I became a Staubach fan that day even though I was in my senior year at the University of Texas.
In all the years he was quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, I never heard him take credit for himself. He usually praised the other team members for their feats on the field and when the team lost a game, I never heard him blame anyone on his team for losing. He simply gave credit to the other team for playing better.
In summary, I do know the meaning of humility but I am not humble. I am frequently snobbish and sometimes arrogant. To know something is not being that something.
Copyright 2015 by Seven07. All Rights Reserved.
Seven07 lives in Southeast Texas. Read his Meanderings here.