Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #35 – Practicing Humility: Part One

August 27th, 2018

In order to illustrate ways one can gain inspiration to write, a friend described to me a documentary he saw on how the show Seinfeld was created. The main writer, Larry David, would keep a notepad to write down things that would amuse him in his daily personal interactions with people in New York, where he was then living. At the time I was thinking of doing a seminar called Practicing Humility and was stuck as to where to begin. That discussion gave me an idea. Why not just observe my mind for two weeks in relationship to how I respond to thoughts of pride and jot down my realizations?


When I began to formulate the seminar I realized that before I could make a presentation to an audience it would be wise to first confront some basic quandaries that seem to arise in most people seeking to understand the concept of humility. For example, many question the similarity between humility, a virtue, and low self-esteem, a psychological aberration. Other quandaries would also have to be addressed, such as how humility can be congruent with boldness, or healthy self-esteem.


Quandary One: Humility and low self-esteem appear too similar 


Those lacking self-esteem and those who are genuinely humble both feel inconsequential, but their feelings of insignificance are diametrically opposed. A humble person seeks worthiness in love and service and thus the fact of inconsequentiality has no bearing on their self-image as a humble servant. In contrast, a person with low self-esteem has a self-perception of material greatness and thus is disturbed by his self-image as one lacking or not being worthy of honor and prestige. I have thus deemed humility “happy small” and low self-esteem as “unhappy small”.


I thought of an example that best illustrates this seemingly improbable congruence in the concept of humility between feeling powerlessness and having self-worth. A baby feels small and utterly dependent in the arms of his mother, but worthy at the same time, for being a small and needy object of his mother’s love is his highest ideal self. In the same way, a pure soul is not disturbed to be unimportant because being an infinitesimal part of God meant for His service is their dharma, their intrinsic identity and purpose.


We have seen that a humble person may also be at times self-deprecatory, so how is that different from a lack of self-esteem? Although a humble person may naturally feel lacking as a servant of Krishna and condemn himself, he is still basically secure in his core identity, whereas a person with low self-esteem is basically insecure in his present self-image or identity, which weighs heavily on his psyche.


Quandary Two: A person in a high position or a bold person can also be humble


It is certainly a challenge to accept a position of authority and remain humble, but it can be done in the proper consciousness. For example, a spiritual master can accept honor and service from his disciples without making himself feel proud if he trains his students as a service to his own preceptor, and not to be better than others. We all generally have to accept a position of authority, whether as a parent or teacher, but if one is vigilant not to act independent of God’s will in doing so, one’s leadership will foster a mood of service and make one humble, not proud.


Quandary Three: A practicing devotee can have healthy self-esteem in his or her material situation


We can pursue reasonable attachments in Krishna consciousness when they are consistent with bhakti and don’t obscure it. For example, a young lady wanting to find a suitable husband is not against her development of Krishna consciousness. Rather it is usually a better situation for her to do so. In the same way, the development of healthy self-esteem does not have to generate pride or cover bhakti if pursued as a component of the healthy mind needed to support one’s devotion.


Definition and Conclusion


Humility: To happily accept that there is a truth or authority greater than my desires and opinions that I should submit to. Happy small.


Unfortunately, I have run out of my word limit for this Monday Morning Greeting. Stayed tuned for next week’s Greeting entitled: “Practicing Humility Part Two: The Twelve Core Practices”.


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