This week it seemed like humility showed up everywhere: in my meetings and in conversations with people in recovery. Then it also showed up in non-recovery settings: in an article about management, and in a faith community publication, and finally in a tarot exercise that I was doing with a friend.
Well, that could only mean that I needed to pay attention to humility.
Luckily it’s a topic that crosses every stage of recovery. And our literature has a lot to offer. As we progress in recovery, and in our personal growth, we come to new layers of understanding of what humility means.
I remember in early recovery humility meant trying to not think about myself so much, and it was tied to uncovering the many episodes of self-centered fear.
Then in a further stage of recovery I (mis)understood humility to mean not taking credit for anything or deflecting praise or compliments. “Oh, who me?” “Oh, this old rag?”
It took my sponsor a long time to help me see that humility was not about being less than someone else (or pretending to be). And it was not about dropping my eyes or my head when I was with others.
Later I came to understand that that kind of false humility is actually a kind of arrogance.
Like many things in recovery, the humility pendulum swings from “I’m a big deal” to “I’m just nothing.” Kind of like Goldilocks trying to find that “just right” chair.
Turns out that “just right” is humility. Humility from the word, hummus or earth: We walk on the earth not above it or below it.
So this week I did some more reading about humility starting with Step Seven in The Twelve & Twelve book. Here is what I read:
“We saw failure and misery transformed by humility.”
“Humility had brought strength out of weakness.”
“Humility we discovered to be a healer of pain.”
Accessing true humility is like the discovery of an incredible medicine. Humility is a transformational agent; it changes weakness to strength and it heals us.
Why would we not all want that?
When we don’t want it—or we fear it--it’s mainly because we misunderstand it, or we have confused humility with humiliation. But humility is freedom. It is the magic ingredient in being able to care about others and not care what other people think of me.
In another reading this week I dug into “The Way of Goodness” by Richard Gula—a Sulpician priest. I learned this: “The humble witness to gratitude because they know we are more gift than achievement.”
He also said, “Humility is a quiet virtue.” Isn’t that nice? It reminds me of Dr. Bob who said, “Humility is perpetual quietness of the heart.” That’s one for the, “if I ever got a tattoo” list.
Gula lists these as practices that cultivate and express humility:
*admitting we don’t have an answer when we actually don’t.
*accepting a compliment without making excuses.
*acknowledging the accomplishments of another
*saying “no” when our plate is full.
But perhaps the most challenging expression and commitment to humility is being able to love and care for ourselves.
I am ever challenged by this quote by French Philosopher, Simone Weil: “Compassion directed to oneself is Humility.”