When we speak of humility, that elusive quality of character, we often speak of accepting ourselves as we are. We speak of downplaying ego and of selflessness. Humility also has something to do with how we react to what is happening around us. It isn’t just a quality on how we see ourselves, but also how we respond to our world. It is keeping things in proportion.
Humility is keeping things in proper perspective. It’s not exaggerating about what is happening in our lives, not bragging about how great we are, nor is it commiserating about how bad things are. How we love to exaggerate. To quote Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” For most of us, before we got into our twelve step program, there were high highs and low lows. Seldom did we find ourselves balanced anywhere near the center. And we loved to tell everyone just how good it is, how much money we made, where we lived, who we were married to. Or, we droned on about how life had done us wrong, how bad things were going at work, how that SOB was going to get what’s coming to him. It was either the best or the worst but rarely a happy medium. How do we get to that balance? We give ourselves over to humility.
Humility is that quality that reminds us that we can deal with anything; those things we like and those which challenge us. It reminds us that we are not alone in life, that we have a Higher Power guiding us and friends around us we can count upon. We learn that we can make it through everything. We can ask ourselves: was it really a bad day, or was it 15 minutes that I milked for the rest of the day?
I remember when I first started teaching. Managing a full classroom of ten year olds, trying to prepare and present lessons, keeping the principle and parents happy were way beyond my limited experience at the job. If one thing happened that I wasn’t expecting, say a half an hour before the final bell, suddenly the whole day was a fiasco. It was the worst day ever. It would be better if I quit now and worked at KFC. Well, that was my scenario, more or less. But no, it wasn’t the worst day ever, it was a small thing that I let colour my perspective on the whole day. I can see now I was operating with plenty of egocentric pride and hardly a speck of humility. Ego and humility cannot exist together. When I claim I’m a humble person, I’ve just let my ego take over.
How grateful I am to learn that I can make it through everything. I am quite fond of saying that it’s not the end of the world until it’s the end of the world! I have a Higher Power and I will always get through whatever comes my way, until I don’t make it. And then it won’t matter. Meanwhile I choose to live while I am alive and not wallow in hiding for fear that things might not go the way I want them to go. Besides, in spite of my desire to have it so, it isn’t all about me. I’m not the only one involved here in this game of life. The world happens. The world happened before I arrived and will probably keep on long after I’m gone. Humility reminds me that I’m not that important in the big picture.
Someday, I hope to become the guy my dogs think I am. Until that time, I keep working away at changing for the better: remembering that I am just another of the creatures on this earth doing the best I can with what I am given each day.