Humility, your health and well-being
I often hear that we live in a macho culture; certainly where I was raised in
northern Scotland, life seemed to favour the masculine, the strong. School
playtimes were awash with bullies and fighting, and the more I recoiled, as
I could see absolutely no point in all this aggressive physicality, the more I
was bullied and accused of being weak.
Thankfully, although we have long ways to go, the macho culture is
dwindling and more powerful feminine energy is coming to the fore.
“Meekness,” a word I seldom hear, is often confused with “weakness.”
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Meekness for me, though
perhaps back then I couldnot have articulated this, is a powerful word,
a word of strength, and groundedness. Winning horses in ancient times
were called “meek”, which meant “strength under control.” The family
horse in my childhood had been tamed, but not timid.
Humility is not “thinking less of yourself.” It’s “thinking of yourself less” and when expressed authentically, makes you a stronger, confident, more centred, more powerful , more attractive person. There is little in the literature about the relationship between health and humility. But genuine humility allows us to live in peace, healed, to be a person of strong spiritual energy and when our lives work well, when that energy flows unimpeded by the ego or its arrogance, we are more able to live healthily.
How can you recognise someone who practises humility? Well, a humble person:-
Acknowledges they know enough to know they will never know enough, that they don’t have it all sussed, and altogether.
Will recoginse that a fall from grace, what some might call failure, or suffering the slings and arrows of life’s bumps and bruises are no reason to hide away in shame but to step forth, show their strength to cope and manage, to thrive and survive, and to get on life’s merry-go-round a stronger, wiser person but with no need to brag.
Is genuine, authentic, no masks, no “make up!” They know the power in not faking it. They know the strength in being vulnerable in embracing successes and failures.
Knows the differences between self-confidence, arrogance, and pride. Humility enhances confidence, not weakens it. Confidence and self-esteem grow as humility grows. Pride is an exaggerated sense of self-importance. And it is typically accompanied by placing ourselves above others. Think consultants.
Seeks to add value to others withoutb eing attached to the other’s gratitude or how the help must work out
Knows that self-care is required to have enough to offer others, that sometime a little selfishness is needed in order to be selfless
Knows that humility means leading a life of authneticity and an ability to calmly handle life’s stressors. In this way, they reduce the stress affects on their body, reduce dis-ease, and live healthily.
Lives with both an inward and outer focus.
Appreciates a sense of “we(ll)-ness” in relationships. They offer the right amounts of support and challenge.
Will admit when they’re wrong and say nothing when they are right. They have no need for vane glory.
Takes responsibility for their actions, not blaming others, or circumstances, or genes for their actions. Acknoledging where their actions may have gone awry, they apologise if needed, take remedial action and thus avoid self-pity or self-loathing.
Is slow to judge, but more likely not to judge.
Will monitor their boundaries, have no need to defend or explain their actions, or allow themsevlves to be mistreated.
Will understand the shadow side of materialism, of success.
Is filled with gratitude for what and who they have in life.
Humility is like the building blocks of all other virtues - a muscle. It can be weakened or strengthened. You can deveop it. It depends on the routine and regularity of exercise. Getting in touch with our modest side sets us up for success. Perhaps that’s why, throughout history, it’s been the foundation for all other virtues.
Humility comes from the Latin humilis, meaning grounded. A grounded person is self-aware, knows themselves, is confident without being arrogant. Grounded, humble people have a quiet confidence about themselves and don’t feel the need to continuously remind others of how great they are and all they have achieved.
Humility is little talked about and is often little in evidence. We seem to live in a culture where, through social media, we are more and more drawn to boasting, talking up our achievements, especially those good deeds we do for others. That is not being humble. And no one likes to hang around a smart arse always singing their praises. Most people enjoy the company of those who are willing to listen to them rather than talk about themselves all the time.
To develop a little more humility, try the following:
Value other people – their contributions, their opinions
Suspend judgement – see things from the other’s perspective, that they may be right too.
Be curious about others without feeling the need to switch the agenda to being about you.
Daily practise mindful meditation
Daily keep a gratitude diary
Daily find opportunities to practise genuine compassion, empathy, not sympathy.
Daily find your way to pray – not necessarily religiously, not always by requesting but by giving thanks.
Stop re-running the old movie of your life, of engaging in woundology (talking about your awfulnesses) or of re-writing the negative stories in your life.
And for leaders – politicians, those who run the NHS, departments in the NHS, clinical practices, include humility and Love in your training of leaders. We need leaders who, when things go wrong, don’t seek to blame others or pass the buck in order to protect themselves or avoiding putting in a little extra effort. Consultants in particular, do away with the grandiose egos that you bring to patients, lording it over them as the only fount of knolwedge. Relationships would be vastly improved, healing would become possible because it is not what you know or do that heals, it is the quality of your relating that matters, that strikes the light within the patient that they themselves, and their bodies, may do the healing.
I have more respect for a doctor who listens, who acknowledges the gaps in their knowledge and experience, who can admit the present medical paradigm is failing us than one who ploughs on regardless, without genuinely listening, almost blaming the patient for the system they are required to work within which choice to do so was theirs in the first place.
Accept yourself just as you are; know yourself and be yourself, at all times. You are not here to be a version of someone according to others’ dictates and expectations. We as patients need to develop humility and be prepared to express it, as well as have the confidence to express when things are not going our way, and then, going one step further, through example, teach it to others. People will want what you have.
Both Martin Luther King and Gandhi credited their approach to humility (passive resistance), to the teachings of Jesus. And Jesus' approach most definitely did not include weakness, poor self-esteem, or a lack of strong commitment and radical action.
Be radical. Be humble. Be healthy.