Cultivating Humility

"If humility is the antidote to entitlement and a lack of gratitude, how can we get more of it? It is almost a contradiction to try to be humble. If we set humility as a personal goal and then succeed at it, would we not be proud of our accomplishment and thus not humble? As Ted Turner once remarked, 'If I only had a little humility, I would be perfect.' Humility appears to be so little, so meek, so unassuming, so well, humble. But we should not be deceived. The more I contemplate the requirements for cultivating gratitude, the more I am convinced of the necessity of humility. In gratitude and humility we turn to realities outside of ourselves. We become aware of our limitations and our need to rely on others. In gratitude and humility, we acknowledge the myth of self-sufficiency. We look upward and outward to the sources that sustain us. Becoming aware of realities greater than ourselves shields us from the illusion of being self-made, being here on this planet by right — expecting everything and owing nothing. The humble person says that life is a gift to be grateful for, not a right to be claimed. Humility ushers in a grateful response to life.

"Paul Wong, president of the International Network on Personal Meaning, provides a set of twenty humble practices for daily life:

"• Acknowledging our wrongdoing
"• Receiving correction and feedback graciously
"• Refraining from criticizing others
"• Forgiving others who have wronged us
"• Apologizing to others we have wronged
"• Enduring unfair treatments with patience and a forgiving spirit
"• Thinking and speaking about the good things of other people
"• Rejoicing over other people's success
"• Counting our blessings for everything, good and bad
"• Seeking opportunities to serve others
"• Being willing to remain anonymous in helping others
"• Showing gratitude for our successes
"• Giving due credit to others for our successes
"• Treating success as a responsibility to do more for others
"• Being willing to learn from our failures
"• Assuming responsibility for our failures
"• Accepting our limitations and circumstances
"• Accepting the social reality of discrimination and prejudice
"• Treating all people with respect regardless of their social status
"• Enjoying the lowly status of being an outsider and a nobody

"You will see gratitude sprinkled throughout this list as well as a focus on the concerns of others and a sense of acceptance of self and others. In humility there is a lack of defensiveness regarding one's own self-worth. With so little need to defend the self, the humble person has more energy to invest in the lives of others. Humble people do not deny their talents but rather keep a proper perspective. They do not need to denigrate others to feel better about themselves. Others do not have to lose so they can win.

"Why did Wong suggest so many practices? Because humility is one of the most difficult virtues to cultivate. It does not come easily or naturally, particularly in a culture that values self-aggrandizement. This list is a great beginning, and every one of these twenty practices will cultivate humility."