The Hidden Power of Humility

“We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.”- Rabindranath Tagore

Humility is a funny thing. In fact, my grandfather used to tell us that he won a medal for his humility, but it was taken away when he began to wear it.

Humility is the act of being modest, reverential, even politely submissive. It is the opposite of aggression, arrogance, pride, and vanity. And on the surface, it appears to empty its holder of all power.

But on the contrary, it grants enormous power to its owner.

Humility offers its owner complete freedom from the desire to impress, be right, or get ahead. Frustrations and losses have less impact on a humble ego and a humble person confidently receives opportunity to grow, improve, and reject society‘s labels. A humble life results in contentment, patience, forgiveness, and compassion.

  • Humility understands individual limitations. Humans, by definition, are finite and thus, limited in our understanding. Our talents are different, our minds are different, and our experiences vary from one another. Individually, we comprehend only a small, unique fraction of the world. But together, we arrive at a far-grander view of the Universe. Humble people realize their understanding is limited and embrace it. As a result, they wisely look for answers outside of themselves.
  • Humility appreciates others. All human life carries inherent value. Our souls hold no more value or importance than the person sitting next to us, no matter where we may be sitting. A humble person appreciates the fact that the world does not revolve around him or her. And accepts their position as just a tiny piece in the giant puzzle.
  • Humility respects others and their opinions. Just because an opinion is different doesn’t mean it is wrong. Please don’t misunderstand me, the opposing opinion may be wrong (there are countless either/or arguments where both sides can’t be right). I’m only saying that it is not wrong just because it is different… and that is a far better place to begin the dialogue.
  • Humility listens more. And speaks less. It spends more time understanding… and less time being understood.
  • Humility withholds judgments over intentions as much as possible. The quickest way to win an argument in your mind is to make sweeping judgements concerning the intentions of others. It is the easiest way to discount any valid, opposing argument. It is also one of the most damaging. In fact, in my opinion, it is one of the primary reasons that humility has completely vanished from our political discourse.
  • Humility helps others and promotes others. Joy is not found in being right and arriving at the top. Instead, joy is found in helping others grow and succeed. Humility realizes that in those cases, both win.

Humility always begins in our heart. As a result, it offers significant control over attitude, outlook, and actions. It has nothing to prove, but everything to offer.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. Meg B. says

    This is one of the most neglected subjects and one of the most important. The difference between one who is humble vs. one who is prideful is striking. Many do not understand this powerful trait. Thank you for writing about this and reminding me of its importance.

  2. says

    Joshua,
    I went through a tough time last year. I had a mental breakdown in the summer, due in part to pride (which is the opposite of humility!) I thought I could do it all, and do it by myself, I didn’t need anyone to help me, I was Superwoman. It eventually came crashing down around me and I am having to learn humilty the hard way. I can’t do it all. Not even close. And what I can do, I need help. From my friends, from my family, from the blogging community, most of all from God.
    Awesome post, thanks for the reminder!
    Bernice
    How does your faith affect your ability to cope?

  3. says

    Humility sounds a lot like “thinking about others before yourself” and “putting yourself in their shoes”. It is a character trait that compliments peace and patience.

    Recognising that even though our own thoughts, feelings and needs are important, we mustn’t have the attitude that those of others aren’t equally so.

    It is a world of way too many “me first” and “don’t get in my way”. Probably fuelled by the advertising that constantly tells us that “the most important person in the world is you”

  4. says

    Something I need to read constantly.

    I know I need to keep reading it because of the lines I read that made me think of OTHER people who should read it… which is obviously the opposite of humility!

    Beautiful reminder. May many of us take it to heart today.

  5. says

    “Humble people realize their understanding is limited and embrace it.”

    This is such a tension in my own life. I thirst for answers and understanding, but find freedom in the realization that some things are just not meant to be known. At least not at this time. If I rest in this mystery, I experience peace and true joy. I also lay myself open to seeing people just as they are. Unique, beautiful, broken, precious, and loved.

    Thanks for the beautiful post, Joshua!

  6. says

    Beautiful post, Joshua. Love your grandfather’s quote! Reminded me of the preacher who, after a sermon on humility, was told by an elderly lady in his church, “You know, Pastor, I’ve always been proud of my humility.”

    : )

    Gene

  7. says

    I agree. To me, humility and humbleness are some of the greatest signs of a person who is comfortable in their own skin. It shows true self-esteem, not the kind that constantly depends on bragging or competition or bringing down others.

    We could all benefit from some more humility.

    Fine, fine post!

  8. says

    This is what I love about your blog Joshua. I never know what I’m going to find! It’s like putting my life on pause for a few minutes and soaking some wisdom from slower times. Thank you for this post. It reached home for me today.

    Tanja

  9. says

    From your post: “Humility helps others and promotes others. Joy is not found in being right and arriving at the top. Instead, joy is found in helping others grow and succeed. Humility realizes that in those cases, both win.” Excellent observation that few seem to really get. Your blog is a blessing to many, us included. Mahalo for putting Truth and substance out there, not fluff; it’s greatly appreciated.

  10. says

    I appreciate your delving into this particular virtue. I’ve had certain points in life where I’ve obsessed slightly about particular virtues. A book really worth looking into on this topic is Humility by Andrew Murray. Read it?

    My “favorite” virtue of the moment is grace. And by favorite I mean the one plaguing me in my desire to exude it and my struggle to actually do so. Wanna break that one down for me in an inspirational post? I’m really working on being a more gracious person. Help a sister out. ;)

  11. Linda says

    Joshua, I want to know if I can print off this story about humility? I teach a class at the county jail for adolescents who are being tried as adults. The class is called Character First. Humility is one of our character words. I am always looking for a broader level for the words we teach than just the sylibus. Thanks I really enjoy your blog, and by the way I am 62 years old and working toward being a minimialist.

  12. says

    I had a Drill Sergent in the Army who would say “Tell me what you think and if it is the same as I am thinking….. We’ll do it your way!”

    Respecting others opinions is not only humility. But often it is the best way to learn you are wrong.

    I love your grandfather’s story too.

  13. says

    I have never understood what humility was fully about until I read this post. It brought tears to my eyes, finally understanding. Thank you for such a thoughtful post.

  14. Di says

    Joshua, what a beautiful and practical post. It couldn’t have come at a better time. “Humility is the act of being modest, reverential, even politely submissive. It is the opposite of aggression, arrogance, pride, and vanity. And on the surface, it appears to empty its holder of all power.” I will memorize these words and practice the art of humility in a couple of situations in which I find myself lately. Your blog is so challenging. Thank you.

  15. virginia says

    God tells us:
    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Phil 2:3

    Help us Jesus.

  16. says

    Love this and it is too true! Thanks to the internet, there is ever more chances for narcissists to try to bring attention to themselves and boasts. But that is out of my control and I can only watch and try to understand what they are trying to achieve.

    Lovely post!

  17. says

    “The quickest way to win an argument in your mind is to make sweeping judgements concerning the intentions of others. It is the easiest way to discount any valid, opposing argument. It is also one of the most damaging. In fact, in my opinion, it is one of the primary reasons that humility has completely vanished from our political discourse.”

    Well said, Joshua.

  18. Nobilis Simplicitas says

    It reminds me of the benedictine Wil Derkse explaining humility not as something negative (as something for the weak, something slavish) but rather as the power to serve. In Dutch he uses ‘deemoed’ which beautifully has the word courage in it.

    There is also a nice book about this theme by Michael Casey ‘A guide to living in truth, Saint Benedict’s teaching on humility’.

  19. says

    Great post. Humility takes courage…to remember that we’re human…. and that without humility we are always in great danger of taking ourselves (and others) far too seriously…which can lead to unhealthy consequences.

  20. Jesse says

    What do you do when honesty and responsibilty inhibit humility?

    Such as when everybody is clearly, demonstrably, stubbornly, arrogantly, self-detrimentally, wrong?

  21. PRINCE says

    That was a really beautiful reminder….and yet strangely hard for me to read today. I guess that means I needed to hear it. :)

    I love that last line…Humility has nothing to prove, but everything to offer.

  22. says

    Ver impt article. Many including the religious are wasting too much and so many bcoz of humility lack. Humility, patience, forgiveness, etc., we need more write-ups on them.

  23. Dors says

    Dear Josh,
    I’m a grade school teacher in Manila. I’m composing a test for 5th graders. Please allow me to use your blog as the ‘umbrella’ for my examination. It is wisdom-filled. It is real. I know the kids will not only enjoy the test, but have some moments of relfections as well. God bless you!

  24. Bethoven says

    Dear Josh,
    Your post is so encouraging, about humility, please allow me to quote this for my preaching in relation to Biblical teaching about humility.
    GOD Bless you more.

  25. says

    This post is really inspiring, wish very many friends of mine would have access to this. A sinner can hardly express true and sincere humility. Humility without Christ is Hypocrisy

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