I remember a speaker quoting John Ruskin: “The first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own power. But really great men have a curious feeling that greatness is not in them but through them. And they see something divine in every other man and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”
Here is how I interpret this quote. Humility—being humble—is often associated with weakness or lack of power. Real humility comes when we see the world as it really is. The real world is a world of connectedness, of moving flows of energy. When we transcend our own egos, when our outer self and our inner self connect, we experience increased integrity, increased oneness, and greater connectedness.
At such moments, we feel enlarged and sense our own greatness. Yet we recognize that the greatness does not emanate from within us—as we assume it does when we brag. It emanates from connectedness with resources outside our conscious self. I think that is one of the things that best-self feedback demonstrates to the person who receives it. We contribute our greatest added value when we do the things that we do naturally when we are in caring relationships. We contribute our greatest added value when we are in pursuit of a genuine purpose. We contribute our greatest added value when we are connected to unconscious sources of regeneration.
When our best self is operating, that is how we behave—not out of pride or arrogance, but for the good of the task and the relationship. When I act with this kind of authentic commitment, I am strongly motivated for the good of the system and not for my own aggrandizement. That is when my greatest sense of connectedness occurs. At such times of connectedness—what I sometimes call “profound contact”—we become aware of the best in ourselves and in others. They love us and we love them.
Humility, then, is having confidence in our ability and strengths because we understand that we only shine when our motives are purified, we consider others, and when we recognized the interconnectedness of all. We cannot shine without connectedness.
What is my definition of humility?
When have I felt greatness flowing through me?
From where did the greatness come?