The most rewarding thing we can do is update our definition of humility.
We accept that it’s not a strategy, program, goal, posture or technique. It’s not something we try to be. Nobody wakes up in the morning and just resolves to be humbler.
We can’t slip on humility like a pair of wool socks. We can’t whip or will ourselves into a state of modesty like an ascetic monk.
Humility a virtue that takes blood, sweat and years to develop. It’s not a habit we decide, it’s a place we arrive. Time teaches us this virtue, though the hard won experience of seeing what is true about ourselves.
Only through accepting the limitations of our natural abilities do we grow humble. Through seeing the subtleties in everything and picking up the missing pieces we skipped because we thought we were entitled.
My first and most significant encounter of humility came while spending a week in the hospital with a tube in my chest. My left lung had collapsed. Nothing like a nice sporadic pneumothorax to teach you a lesson about humility, right?
But the whole experience proved to me that we only get humble when something calls us out of ourselves. When the ordinary but inevitable human misery of life knocks us down and stills our heart and takes our breath away.
Quite literally in my case. My biological mechanism for respiration was compromised and controlled by a machine plugged into a wall.
That’s messed up. It changed my whole perspective on life.
Not immediately, though. Human beings have a tendency to learn big lessons slowly. We’re poor historians, and humility typically hurts for a while before it metastasizes into a gift.
Louie, a comedian who knows a thing or two about humility, said it best in his standup special:
It’s not up to you if you’re an asshole or not. That’s up to everybody else. You don’t get to say no to that. If somebody tells you you’re an asshole, you should go, oh, well all right, what happened, how did I get here?
That’s why there’s no need to go out of our way to humble ourselves. Because life will do that for us. It hurls us into a state of being teachable, whether we like it or not.
And if we don’t listen, then it will strike back twice as hard until we finally wake up and pay attention. Until we finally exhale and say, god damn it, okay, let me help myself to a big humility sandwich here.
Let me see if I can gain a clearer grip on who and what I really am.
Remember, it’s not a habit we decide, but a place we arrive.
Some people arrive at humility sooner than others, but none of are exempt from the journey.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
When was the last time you updated your definition about humility?