Reply To: What is humility?


    I love reading all of these comments, thank you all for sharing your deep, nuanced perspectives on such fundamental aspects of life. I learn a lot from discussions like these and am inspired to throw my own language at the wall to see what sticks.

    I think the difference in understanding of humility here could come from differing lenses. An individualistic vs communitarian lens. To have humility is an inherently individual virtue, but can look different depending on the context. To me, humility resembles something very similar to the idea that “I am a very small part of something much grander than myself”.

    I have a love/hate relationship with people that have strong egos. In this context, it is very easy for me to discern those who have humility from those who don’t. What about yourself are you proud of? Are you proud of how smart or beautiful you are, how much money you’ve made, and how much success you’ve had? Or are you proud of the impact you have made, the people you have helped, the community you have fostered, and the life you have helped nurture?

    I am not yet proud of my career and education accomplishments like many others my age would be. The impact of a lot of my work is not something I am proud of. I am not even necessarily proud of the work and effort it took me to get here. My abilities are a product of my privilege, environment, upbringing and DNA. I am proud of the intentions and motivation behind the continuation of my lifelong education. I am proud and humbled when I give my delivery driver a big tip and come to see that it is an elderly woman delivering my food. I am proud when I make an impact that is grounded in humility, or the idea that “I am a very small part of something much grander than myself.”

    This makes me think a lot about African philosophy and communitarianism. Perhaps these ideas are for another thread, here is a short article:

    For me, to act with humility is to put the interests of the community ahead of my own. To recognize that I am superior to no other human and no more deserving of life, but am still entirely unique and have a unique role to play in pushing my community forward. This is what it means to be a human. We only exist because other life has enabled us to. We exist to enable others to exist. To act in self-interest, at the expense of this community, to act without humility, is anti-human. It is anti-life. We are seeing the consequences of these actions unfolding right before our eyes.

    To act with humility is to be human.