Self-pity is not humility
Self-pity can seem like humility because both appear to involve having a low, even negative, conception of ourselves.
However, they are totally different both in content and consequence.
Content: Self-pity is self-centered – it makes us wallow in thoughts about our problems, our inadequacies, essentially ourselves. We tend to succumb to self-pity when we feel that life has dealt unfairly with us or that we are forced to face challenges we are unequipped to tackle.
Devotional humility helps us to fix our focus on Krishna, knowing that he is bigger than the biggest problem.
In contrast, humility frees us from self-centeredness. Though humility is often stereotyped as thinking low about oneself, it actually centers on thinking less about oneself. Thus, it enables us to take our thoughts off ourselves and fix them on something bigger. In a devotional context, humility helps us accept that we are not all-powerful – Krishna is. By easing this acceptance, humility eases our meditation on he who is the biggest reality.
Consequence: Self-pity is disempowering. As long as we indulge in feeling sorry for ourselves, we can’t seek constructive solutions. Worse still, the more we dwell morosely on our pitiable situation, the more our problems seem to grow and the more our capacity to solve them seems to dwindle. The resulting aggravated sense of helplessness saps our energy, and may degenerate into chronic depression and even suicidal urges.
In contrast, humility is empowering. It enables us to shift our focus from ourselves to the work at hand, thereby providing a constructive channel for our energy. And devotional humility helps us to fix our focus on Krishna, knowing that he is bigger than the biggest problem and that he, out of his love for us, will empower us with intelligence to overcome any problem. Such contemplation boosts our confidence, and we march boldly through life’s challenges.
No wonder the Bhagavad-gita (13.08) commends humility as the beginning of knowledge.
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