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For the medieval saint of the same name, see Saint Humility.

Humility (adjectival form: humble) is the quality of being modest, reverential, even politely submissive, and never being arrogant, contemptuous, rude or even self-abasing. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of transcendent unity with the universe or the divine, and of egolessness; by contrast, some schools of thought are sharply critical of humility.


[edit] Term

The term “humility” comes from the Latin word humilitas, a noun related to the adjective humilis, which may be translated as “humble”, but also as “low”, “from the earth”, or “humid”, since it derives in turns from humus (earth). See the English humus. [1]

Because the concept of humility addresses intrinsic self-worth, it is emphasised in the realm of religious practice and ethics where the motion is often made more precise and extensive. Humility as a religious or spiritual virtue is different from the act of humiliation or shaming though the former may follow as a consequence of the latter.[dubious discuss]

[edit] Religious views of humility

[edit] Humility in Buddhism

For more details on this topic, see Anatta.

In Buddhism, humility is equivalent to a concern of how to be liberated from the sufferings of life and the vexations of the human mind. The ultimate aim is to achieve a state of enlightenment through meditation and other spiritual practices. Humility can also result from achieving the liberation of Nirvana. When one experiences the ultimate Emptiness (Shunyata) and non-self (Anatta), one is free from suffering, vexations, and all illusions of self-deception. Humility, compassion, and wisdom characterize this state of enlightenment.

Chan (Zen) Master Li Yuansong states that enlightenment can come only after humility – the wisdom of realizing one’s own ignorance, insignificance, and lowliness, without which one cannot see the truth.[citation needed]

[edit] Humility in Hinduism

To get in touch with your true self, whether you call that God, Brahman, etc., one has to kill the ego. The Sanskrit word Ahamkara literally translates into The-sound-of-I, or quite simply the sense of the self or ego. When this sound is stilled, you are in touch with your true being.

[edit] Humility in Christianity

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

Catholic texts view humility as annexed to the cardinal virtue of temperance.[2] It is viewed as a potential part of temperance because temperance includes all those virtues that restrain or express the inordinate movements of our desires or appetites.[2]

Humility is defined as, “A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God’s sake.” St. Bernard defines it as, “A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself. Jesus Christ is the ultimate definition of Humility.”[2]

St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century philosopher and theologian in the Scholastic tradition, defines humility similarly as “the virtue of humility” that “consists in keeping oneself within one’s own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one’s superior” (Summa Contra Gent., bk. IV, ch. lv, tr. Joseph Rickaby).

Humility is said tod a fit recipient of grace; according to the words of St. James, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34, 1 Peter 5:5, James 4:6 NIV).[2]

“True humility” is distinctly different from “false humility,” which consists of deprecating one’s own sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments for the sake of receiving praise or adulation from other, as personified by Uriah Heep. In this context legitimate humility comprises the following behaviors and attitudes:

  1. Submitting to God and legitimate authority
  2. Recognizing virtues and talents that others possess, particularly those that surpass one’s own, and giving due honor and, when required, obedience
  3. Recognizing the limits of one’s talents, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for what is beyond one’s grasp

As illustrated in the person of Moses, who leads the nation of Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and to the “Promised Land”, humility is a sign of Godly strength and purpose, not weakness. Of this great leader, the Bible states, “(For Moses was a man exceeding meek above all men that dwelt upon earth)” (Numbers 12:3, Douay-Rheims Bible).

The vices opposed to humility are: (A) pride (by reason or defect). (B) a too great obsequiousness or abjection of oneself; this would be considered an excess of humility,and could easily be derogatory to one’s office or holy character; or it might serve only to pamper pride in others, by unworthy flattery, which would occasion their sins of tyranny, arbitrariness, and arrogance. The virtue of humility may not be practiced in any external way that would occasion vices in others.[2]

Amongst the benefits of humility described in the Bible are honor, wisdom, eternal life, unity, rewards in heaven and others. In the Bible, an exhortation to humility is found in Philippians 2:1-17:

Also in 1 Peter 2:23, concerning Jesus Christ’s behavior in general and submission to unjust torture and execution in particular: “Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him justly.” (1 Peter 2:23 Douay-Rheims Bible)

In Amish thought and practice, the concept of Gelassenheit is a manifestation of humility.

[edit] Humility in Islam

In the Qur’an, Arabic words conveying the meaning of “humility” are used, and the very term “Islam” can be interpreted as meaning “surrender (to God), humility” – see S-L-M. Among the specific Arabic words used to convey “humility” are “tawadu’ ” and “khoshou’ “:

“Before thee We sent messengers to many nations, and We afflicted the nations with suffering and adversity, that they call Allah in humility. When the suffering reached them from Us, why then did they not call Allah in humility? On the contrary, their hearts became hardened, and Satan made their sinful acts seem alluring to them.” (Al-Anaam 6:42-43)

“Successful indeed are the believers, those who humble themselves in their prayers.” (Al-Muminoon 23:1-2). “Has not the time arrived for the believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed to them.”(Al-Hadid 57:16)

Many great philosophers have spoken of the importance of exercising both humility and confidence.

[edit] Humility In Sikhism

Humility is a deep aspect of Sikhism preached as Nimrata.[3] According to Sikhism All have to bow in humility before God. The fruit of humility is intuitive peace and pleasure. With Humility they continue to meditate on the Lord, the Treasure of excellence. The God-conscious being is steeped in humility. One whose heart is mercifully blessed with abiding humility. Sikhism deal Humility as begging bowl before the god. Guru Nanak, First Guru Of Sikhism said,

Make contentment your ear-rings, humility your begging bowl, and meditation the ashes you apply to your body.(Page 4,Guru Granth Sahib)

Listening and believing with love and humility in your mind (Page 6,Guru Granth Sahib).

In the realm of humility, the Word is Beauty.(Page 8,Guru Granth Sahib).

Modesty, humility and intuitive understanding are my mother-in-law and father-in-law (Page 152,Guru Granth Sahib).

[edit] Philosophical views of humility

A non-specific source suggests that humility may also come from pride. This is only meant in the instance of the owner doing it over dramatically or doing it in such a way that others know the person is a narcissist.

Kant is among the first philosophers to view conception of humility as “that meta-attitude that constitutes the moral agent’s proper perspective on himself as a dependent and corrupt but capable and dignified rational agent”.[citation needed] Kant’s notion of humility is that humility is a virtue, and indeed a central virtue.[citation needed]

Mahatma Gandhi is attributed as suggesting that attempting to sustain truth without humility is doomed to cause it to become instead an “arrogant caricature” of truth.[4][5]

Humility is considered an important virtue in taoism. The following quote describes how a wise person should see his accomplishments, according to the Tao Te Ching (77.4)

[a wise person] acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: — he does not wish to display his superiority.

[edit] Criticism

While most schools of thought view humility as a virtue, some have been sharply critical of it, seeing it as opposed to individualism, specifically the value and excellence of the individual.

Nietzsche views humility (not to speak of any other virtue lauded widely by the herd-like masses) as a strategy used by the weak to avoid being destroyed by the strong. In Twilight of the Idols he writes: “When stepped on, a worm doubles up. That is clever. In that way he lessens the probability of being stepped on again. In the language of morality: humility.” Nietzsche argues that the slave morality of Christianity has so infected Western culture that now even the masters view humility as a virtue.

His idealized Übermensch would be more apt to roam around unfettered by pretensions of humility, proud of his stature and power, but not reveling idly in it, and certainly not displaying hubris.

More recently, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism sees self-abasement as antithetical to morality.

Responses to the criticisms of humility based on the theory of self-abasement are best personified by spiritual leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, the current Dalai Lama, and other widely recognized spiritual people who do not engage in self-abasement. Instead, they advocate self-respect with a true understanding of oneself in relation to the Divine source of all Creation[citation needed].

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

[edit] References

  1. ^ “Humble” from Merriam-Webster,
  2. ^ a b c d e Catholic Encyclopedia, “Humilty”,
  3. ^ Five Virtues
  4. ^ Gandhi on Brahmacharya,
  5. ^ Epigrams from Gandhiji,

[edit] External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Humility


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