The other thing about humility that really trips us up is its seeming proximity to humiliation. While the words do share a common Latin root, their meanings are, however, far apart. While in some ways humiliation might help prompt us to be humble, being humble is not the same as the harsh, floor-dropping, painful loss of pride, self-respect, or dignity of humiliation.
And let’s be frank here for a moment – being humiliated hurts. It’s not a pleasant time. No wonder we’d avoid humility if it even carries a whiff of that floor-dropping monster! Being humiliated leaves us feeling lonely, unworthy, and unwanted. We are excluded. It is a break in belonging.
So it’s good to make clear the distinction (again, despite the fact they sound similar) between the unpleasant humiliation and the centering and peaceful realm of being humble.
There’s a really funny bonus thing here though: all that unpleasant stuff about humiliation? That is exactly what being humble prevents, for if we don’t have some overblown, aggrandized, conceited view of our self, then we can’t be knocked down. So while we often think that humiliation is foist upon us by others, the agency is really ours by choosing humility. If we don’t put on airs, the floor can’t open up beneath us – we’re already grounded.
Being humble connects us to others. It allows us to be related to one another, without the specter of better/worse, or worthy/unworthy. Though cultivating humility, we get to share in our common humanity through our unique self-expressions.
(One more bit next week to finish off this triptych.)
* An interesting addition: Arrogant (ie non-humble) people who feel threatened (and thus are in fear of being humiliated) will lash out to attack or humiliate others in an effort to retain their fragile façade. Again, a humble person is resistant to being humiliated, for with a level-headed view of themselves there’s nothing to shatter.