“These are the few ways we can practice humility:
To speak as little as possible of one’s self.
To mind one’s own business.
Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.
To avoid curiosity.
To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
To pass over the mistakes of others.
To accept insults and injuries.
To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
To be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never to stand on one’s dignity.
To choose always the hardest.”
― Mother Teresa
I love to laugh. Surprised? My writing tends to be very deep creating the erroneous impression that I sit at home, lost in my thoughts, hanging over the dark end of the abyss. This is not even close to the truth. In my world, there is nothing that compares to a good long bellyache laugh that leaves me red in the cheeks and short of breath. It is absolutely wonderful and a free stress reliever to boot. Simply said, I enjoy anything funny and adore friends that have a knack for making me laugh.
One of my favorite actors when I was young was Carol Burnett being the self-deprecating humorist that she is and one that I can relate to in many ways. Somehow, I make a fool of myself at least once a day. At times my clumsiness is the culprit. My parents used to say it was a good thing I can dance because I most definitely can not walk. I have the recurring misfortune of tripping over my own feet, utterly embarrassing each time. I also make hilarious mistakes with speech. I have an eloquent running vocabulary in my mind that never seems to come out the way I envision. Just as I stumble over my feet, I stumble over my words at my own expense. Humor is an integral part of my life and in my case has been a facilitator for greater humility.
“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Humility on its own can be an over pious and forced act. It is such a serious and even heavy term that calls for as much attention as one can muster. What does it even mean to be humble? I like Mother Teresa’s thoughts on this and can’t help but notice that I do not even come close to achieving a small measure of humility by her definition. I make a reasonable attempt to live my life with humility and make note each time I fall short. In order to continue to show up each day with a commitment to be humble, I have learned that I need a fair dose of humor. If I cannot laugh at my shortcomings than who can?
In my case, the study of mysticism has also facilitated the unearthing of greater humility. By its very nature, mysticism is seeded in the belief that life is a mystery. It is peering into the unknown and admitting that so much remains undefined. I understand what I believe to be true at this juncture in my life, but am well aware that this may change given time and knowledge. Humility is embracing the understanding that I may in fact be wrong. This is difficult for anyone to admit, not just in a spiritual sense.
Just as with my walking and speech foibles, we all stumble along in life trying our very best to be better, to grow. It is important to lean into this discomfort with a lens of gentle humor, not harsh sarcasm or judgment. Be gentle with yourself, laugh with others when they stumble, find the joy not only in the successes but also in the failures. In this way we learn to be more forgiving of ourselves and ultimately embrace humility more often with a chuckle and a grin.