The Meaning of Humility As a Seeker

by Melody Jean

contemporaryseekerthehumilityA recent interchange gave me reason to pause to examine the elusiveness of the “H” word, humility.

We were gathering in my office for a staff meeting and I said, “What’s that noise? Do you hear it? It sounds like a TV.” A colleague responded, “I hear it too … it sounds like someone’s computer.” Now, remember, we’re in my office. I said “Yep, it does sound like it’s a computer. Oh wait, it’s mine!”

Naturally all started laughing including me. Laughing at the fact that I didn’t know it was my computer and inquired to the noise. I’d been listening to music prior, so when they arrived I turned it down. What we heard was a commercial lingering in the background. Someone then proceeded to remark in jest regarding my hearing loss, and we all laughed again. I laughed the hardest of all.

How Do We Become Humble?

Time and again I’ve stumbled upon the same notion among many different religions and spiritual entities. Most approaches speak to the need for humility in the traveler or seeker. Humility they say is essential to becoming the best practitioner, whether religious or spiritual, that one can be.

I’ve often thought, okay, well how does one become humble? And why did the incident above drive me back to thinking of humility?

I’m Humble – So You Think!

I believe that most would like to assume that they’re humble and practice humility. Yet, I think there’s a major difference between uttering the words, “I’m humble” and actually being humble.

What does it mean to be humble? How does one get there? I’ve heard of people taking it to extremes. Debasing oneself in an effort to become humble. Yet, certainly that can’t be the way? I would guess that it happens on a subconscious level. One in which the individual doesn’t speak to it nor are they even aware it’s transpiring.

My Humbling Disability

Now back to the incident that provoked these thoughts. The one in my office. When I was a kid, my hearing loss was extremely hard for me on many levels. I was petrified that others would find out. That I’d be made fun of; ridiculed.

My parents were asked by a guidance counselor when I was in middle school if they thought that I would share my “disability” with the other students. The girls, my friends, complained to her that I ignored them and deemed me stuck-up and snobby. Yet, the counselor knew that it was likely I just couldn’t hear them. At that age, I was too ashamed, too scared to share my disability. So no, I did not.

Later, when I went to college, I was again presented with the opportunity to let others know. I could register as a student with a disability. Once more I chose not to. For one, I didn’t want mail from the handicapped office arriving at my dorm room. Again I feared others would find out.

At that point in my life I carefully chose those who I shared my “disability” with. I didn’t then, nor do I now, want the hearing loss to become me. Become Melody. I am a person with a disability, not a disabled person. As are all who have a handicap.

It Feels Good Not to Be Perfect

At a very young age I was forced to realize that I was different, and that I wasn’t perfect. The incident in my office reminded me of how good it feels that I can laugh at myself today. More importantly that I can laugh at my “disability,” and admit to others that I have one.  I’ve come a long way from the scared little girl that I was. Through the love and support of my family, and others who came to know over the years, I grew to accept it as a part of me.

So perhaps being able to laugh at ourselves and our greatest defect, if you will, is a level of humility. It’s not the be all end all of humility, of course, but perhaps it has a place.

A Revelation From a Spiritual Man

I visited a spiritual man once who explained a notion that we choose who we are, our health issues and a number of other aspects before we come here. Now whether you believe this to be true, or not, or whether I do, is not where I’m going. I like to entertain thoughts without accepting them sometimes. So while entertaining this particular idea, I asked him “Tell me, why did I choose a hearing loss then?”

He replied, “Because if you didn’t, perhaps, you would have went through life thinking you were better than everyone.” Interesting notion. Do I believe it? On some level. Whether I chose it, that I don’t know. Yet, I do know that my hearing loss certainly has helped to keep me in my place. I also think that it’s made me a little more sensitive and tolerant of others, particularly those with handicaps, illnesses and disabilities than I may have been otherwise.

Strong but Soft

I’ve been told time and again, that I tend to appear strong. Yet, I have a soft place in this hard facade that I show the world. My dad wrote this little snippet on humility that resonates: “Turn Toward God. Pain and suffering help to teach humility and turn our hearts upward for help from our Friend.” It can be found in his blog post Tears along the Way.

I offer all of this so that you too can examine those things which make you humble, or that may help you to become so along the way. As always, take what you need.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ernie Hawks

It doesn’t matter why you have a hearing loss or even whether you chose it or not. What matters; you are letting that be another way to share with people, to connect with some who you may not have been able to without it. Sharing how you handled the issue for your self is not only a blessing for you but for others.
Keep up the good work.

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Melody Jean

Thank you Ernie for your kind note – I really appreciate it. Thank you too for always continuing to offer feedback and contribute. I hope that you too keep on this vein. All the best to you.

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