"One ought, everyday at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and speak a few reasonable words." --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Humility: All Streams Flow to the Ocean

This is my number one, most favorite quote of all time. And I think that's saying something, since I have over 200 pages of favorite quotes in 12pt font.  I love it because it articulates a little known - or at least - little utilized truth.

Of all the virtues, I think humility has been the most difficult for me to cultivate in my life. First of all, it's a difficult concept to wrap your head around. In the dictionary, Humble is defined as "The quality or condition of being modest in opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc." But I have a bit of a problem with that definition. I think the words "importance" and "rank" add to a general misconception of humility as "less than or lowly in comparison to others," which has a competitive connotation. But humility is anything BUT competitive. Competition is a function of the ego, and ego is the antithesis of humility.  

I have found it most useful to think of humility as an abiding inner peace. Regardless of what others may think, you are content. Even if you are stressed, vexed, afflicted, or provoked your heart remains harmonious no matter what the circumstance. You don't compare yourself to others or judge them in any way and most often forget yourself in the service of those around you simply because your "self" doesn't even occur to you in the presence of so many others.

Who ISN'T attracted to that in someone...like a stream to the ocean? 

Most of the finest leaders in history have been masters of humility. But of course they never knew it because not-knowing, not-judging, not-measuring are the hallmarks of a humble character.  If you know you're humble, you're not.

I often wonder if such a virtue can even be cultivated. It sort of seems like something you either have or you don't, like long eyelashes or green eyes. But I suppose it's never a lost cause to try and cultivate humility anyway. Even if you never become an ocean, it's not going to hurt to forget your "self" even intermittently.  There's still gravity in the effort, no matter the ultimate result. Besides, perfection is not required. Aren't we all dependent upon Grace (the ultimate Ocean) anyway? We're always flowing to something deeper than ourselves...


  1. WOW...i have been deeply moved with what you have said and will take this into account.

  2. i think you find humility when you give up on striving, and focus on being :)