Humility is not about being passive, a wus. It is not about being a doormat. It is not the false modesty that speaks loudly of taking no credit, all the while silently taking full credit in one’s heart. It is not about giving in the expectation of subsequently receiving, making payments attached to a string marked “IOU.” It is not about doing acts of goodness with the intention that goodness will therefore come back to us.
For the Spiritual Person, humility is saying and doing simply for the sake of saying and doing only what needs to be said or done. There is nothing more attached to the words or the actions beyond what they inherently are. The Spiritual Person gives advice only because advice is requested; opinions are given without regard or concern whether the advice is ultimately followed or not. Nor does the Spiritual Person presume that her thoughts are any better than any others’; they are simply perspectives at this moment in time from one’s cumulative experience. The Spiritual Person knows that her experiences, and therefore her perspective, will continually change, so one’s truth is open to change and is not necessarily better than others. If perspective is not asked for, the Spiritual Person is comfortable in her silence.
The Spiritual Person acts when action is called for, but he knows that not all situations call for engagement. Some things are best left to others; the Spiritual Person does not need to be in the center of the attention. When he is truly secure within himself, he does not have to be in the spotlight. He is content in the back of the room, going about the business to be done, accomplishing by encouraging the work of others.
Yet when the occasion demands, the Spiritual Person willingly steps to the forefront. Humility does not preclude action, but only ensures that our actions are honest to their intentions, not to our glory. When action brings great achievement or public notice, the Spiritual Person accepts her role in these results. Yet she knows that she was only a part of the cause, that the light of fame is a very short-lived candle. So her values and directions are unswayed by such acclaim, nor are they an intoxicant for more such applause.
The Spiritual Person always remembers that he is an interconnected being who accomplishes nothing on his own. Even when one is the hub of movement, the wheel does not turn without the axle, spokes and rim turning together. One gets to the front of the line only by the help of all those standing in that line. There are many along life’s way who give us assistance, inspiration, teachings, working partnerships, and other contributions to the mutual product created.
Humility is simply remembering all those who made possible what we are, while never forgetting who we truly are. A unique being, yes, but one who finds accomplishment due to circumstances, the gifts of others, a little luck, and divine grace.
As the Taoist says, “This is the way of heaven: do your work, then quietly step back.”