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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gentle Humility

HUMILITY - The quality or condition of being humble; imitate Jesus and Socrates. [Humility week begins here. Click for this week's Bliss Initiatives.]

Humility is like underwear; 
essential, but indecent if it shows.

Yesterday tattytiara commented and said this about humility, "Not entirely convinced it's really the virtue at work when it's being credited, or at least not all the time, if that makes sense." Which made total sense to me and is one of the things I wanted to talk about today.

When humility is cited as the reason for something happening I think it is more usually a denial of pride rather then an actual occurrence of humility. We have all been taught that pride is the opposite of humility but I think there are many different kinds of pride which has caused some of the confusion. The antonym of humility is an inordinate sense of self with, I believe, at least a nuance of conceit thrown in. Avoiding this is certainly a path to humility.

Other types of pride, like knowing in your heart that you have done a good job or being satisfied with how your daughter reacts to another child's bullying are not the types of pride to be avoided and if you keep from acknowledging them it doesn't up your humility quotient one little bit. Boasting about these things starts to head into the conceit arena but I think, experiencing them and sharing them are pretty neutral on a humility vs. pride scale.

"Humility" by Kadir Nelson

Humility is gentle. This is why excessive claims of its existence feel grossly indecent. When we see a very poor women sneak a few pennies into the offering plate, a small boy offer his last cookie, or busy business man stop to help an older man cross the road we recognize humility immediately. In addition to being gentle, humility is also quiet. It does not announce its arrival and will often flee if it is recognized or, even worse, touted. This is what makes practicing it so difficult.

It seems the very thought, "I'm doing this because it is humble" already reduces the capacity. Doing my Bliss Initiatives smacks of the same thing. This week I've been dropping money into collection jars and giving change to beggars when I normally might not. (I struggle with this regularly... is it better to give to specific charities on a regular basis or just give what I may have available to those who ask first?) Oops! And now I've told you so it isn't even anonymous! Man, this humility thing is tricky. 

I guess that means it is time to consult an expert. Tomorrow I consider Jesus.

Next Post: Moxie revisited? First politics and now religion!

My 13 bliss virtues: joy, order, creativity, passion, whimsy, serenity, inquiry, community, romance, gratitude, moxie, humility, surprise


  1. I am the most humble person I know. Ha!

  2. Oh, dear me...we are moving to religion, now, huh? Okay...deep breaths have been taken and I'm ready. LOL! That picture is amazing! Such a beautiful representation of humility.


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Ben Franklin's 13 Virtues

  • 1. TEMPERANCE - Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
  • 2. SILENCE - Speak not what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  • 3. ORDER - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  • 4. RESOLUTION - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  • 5. FRUGALITY - Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e. waste nothing.
  • 6. INDUSTRY - Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  • 7. SINCERITY - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and if you speak, speak accordingly.
  • 8. JUSTICE - Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  • 9. MODERATION - Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  • 10. CLEANLINESS - Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths or habitation.
  • 11. TRANQUILITY - Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  • 12. CHASTITY - Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or to the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
  • 13. HUMILITY - Imitate Jesus and Socrates.


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