A simple way to determine our humility — and to develop it too

On the spiritual path, humility is celebrated as a foundational virtue. Indeed, the Bhagavad-gita (13.08) deems humility the first characteristic of knowledge. On understanding how important humility is, we may naturally wonder: Am I humble or arrogant?

One simple way to know is by observing ourselves, especially amid success.

If we are arrogant, we are so full of ourselves that we barely notice others’ contributions. For us, others exist only as pliant extras in the movie in which we star. Consequently, whenever any success occurs around us, we naturally presume it was because of us. And we brazenly take credit for it, even if our contribution was minuscule. 

In contrast, if we are humble, we are sufficiently free from self-obsession to know the reality that we can’t even exist without others. Can we single-handedly produce all our survival necessities such as heat, light, air, water, food? No. If we can’t even survive on our own, can we achieve success on our own? No. What if it was our talent and commitment that was central to success? Still, we were helped by many people during our life-journey that eventually led to this success. Remembering this truth, we naturally give them credit.

Thus, by noting whether we take credit or give credit amid success, we can assess our humility. 

What if we discover we lack humility? We needn’t be discouraged; the same introspection that helped us evaluate our humility level can help us elevate it too. Whenever we feel tempted to take credit for any success, we can conscientiously strive to give credit to others or to at least share credit with them. That exercise will propel us toward humility. 

One-sentence summary:

The humble give others credit for their own success; the arrogant take credit for others’ success. 

Think it over:

  • Amid success, how does arrogance affect our vision and behavior?
  • Amid success, how does humility shape our vision and behavior?
  • Look back at a major success in your life. List at least three people whom you can give credit for that success. 

***

13.08: Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona fide spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; … [ – all these I declare to be knowledge]. 

 

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Author: Chaitanya Charan

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3 Comments

  1. Nice, please keep it up.

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  2. We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility. Rabindranath Tagore

    A great man is always willing to be little. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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    • Thanks for sharing these thoughtful quotes.

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