The words humanity and humility both come from the Latin word humus, meaning ground, soil, or earth. We say that people with humility are “grounded” or “down to earth.” They know their strengths and their weaknesses. They are not arrogant, nor are they self-deprecating. These folks are right-sized because they have developed the fine art of accurate self-appraisal.
Being humiliated, therefore, means that you are being brought back down to earth and reminded of your humanity. You’re not better than or worse than anyone—just another monkey on the bus. You are receiving a healthy serving of humility. A slice of humble-pie, as it were.
So if you want to avoid ever feeling humiliated, make it a personal goal to have some fucking humility. Many people out here walking around like their shit don’t stink — as if they have it all figured out, they can’t make mistakes, and bad things don’t happen to good people.
That delusion certainly has strong mass appeal. I mean, after all, that’s essentially what fuels the multibillion-dollar global juggernaut of social media. It’s a community garden for egos where people can easily cultivate a false sense of self in the world.
The human condition itself renders so many wounded, lost, afraid, and insecure. And what better remedy for someone who feels powerless in their own life than to create an empowered avatar of themselves who feels “liked” in an eerily vivid synthetic society in the digital clouds?
A general lack of humility inherent in electronic life must surely be responsible for the inhumane ways we treat each other from behind a keyboard.
But let’s talk about some other reasons why humility has utility…
Learning, Growing, and Changing
I run a class at a private, inpatient, international addiction treatment center where people come from literally all over the world to unfuck their lives. Whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, codependency, or whatever — compulsive behavior of any type is baffling and quite difficult to overcome.
People pay tens of thousands of dollars and travel great distances to join our program. They usually show up looking a bit rough around the edges, presumably not on a winning streak, and desperately want to know how to face life successfully.
Some of them are aware that their best thinking nearly killed them, and they are wide open for suggestions. Others, oddly enough, will offer a full critique of our program within hours of arrival and find it exceedingly difficult to shut the fuck up for any significant period of time. This is called “conversational silence,” an emotional filibuster of sorts created by the fluent art of unyielding verbal diarrhea.
The cliché genius in a rehab has a remarkable lack of humility and might as well be a raggedy pull-string doll, only capable of saying things like “I know,” “Yeah, but,” and “I disagree.” It’s audaciously pathetic.
What I know to be true from almost fourteen years of experience in the field is that people with humility can learn, grow, and change. Those who lack humility rarely make much progress, and depending on their addiction, end up in jails, institutions, and cemeteries.
All that to say, humility is indispensable to growth. You can’t put anything in a cup that’s already full, you can’t learn a damn thing if you already know it all, and you certainly can’t fix a problem you refuse to acknowledge exists.
Genuine Human Connection
Do you know anyone who is always having a super-duper day? Perhaps someone in the “good vibes only” camp? They frolic, sparkle, say “splendid,” and shoot rainbows out of their ass. Sometimes they take active listening to aggressive new levels and make a simple conversation kind of taxing. Whenever I interact with these people, I’m always thinking, whatever you’re doing, stop it; it’s freaking me out.
On the flip side, do you know somebody who is always having a terrible day? Just bitching and moaning like a walking, eternal grievance? A human black hole from which light cannot escape who often leaves you with a mild to severe emotional hangover depending on the length of your interaction? I give these people one-word answers to avoid putting any logs on the fire.
It’s challenging to have good relationships with either of these types. You know why? Lack of humility, simple and plain. One is too good, one is too bad, and both think about themselves way too damn much.
The worst and the best you will ever be on any given day is human. When we fully embrace this messy ass human experience for all that it is and stop trying to control it or make it look presentable, we’ve got a much better shot at authentic, meaningful, satisfying relationships.
I always say that vulnerability is the price of admission to a real relationship. And without humility, vulnerability is a long shot.
Rumi once wrote, “Gamble everything for love if you are a true human being. If not, leave this gathering. Half-heartedness does not reach into majesty.”
What did he mean by “true human being”? I believe he was talking about humility. And if you’ve got enough humility to be fully human, then you must risk sharing all that you are for true love and connection. He’s talking about vulnerability as a prerequisite to intimacy. Then he basically says faking the funk will get you nowhere, and you can take that bullshit somewhere else (paraphrased).
Love is not something you find, win, earn, achieve, or orchestrate. It is a collaborative creation by two beautifully flawed human beings brave enough to be seen by one another for everything they are and everything they are not.
It’s definitely a gamble.
Why Humility Is Important
So, apparently, humility is at the root of feeling secure within ourselves, evolving as a person, connecting with others, and experiencing the majesty of love. It sounds like something worth having, doesn’t it? I sure think so.
But what do I know about humility?