Shelby's Christmas for Mississippi Children
Learning after Doing by Brad Respess

What's the origin of humility?

Following on my reflections on Ira Williams' Change This manifesto on humility - Speak Softly , I wrote my friend and philosopher Tom Morris about the relation between Homeric courage and the biblical understanding of humility. My perspective is that to be a truly humble person requires courage in order to make the sacrifices needed to help others. 

Tom responded ...

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"... there is an important sense in which Humility as a virtue was discovered by Christians, because of the incarnation and Jesus' life. Or better yet, it's a revealed virtue. The Greeks had no good sense of it as a virtue or as a strength (basically the same thing). Humility is not a belief (detractors parse it as believing less of yourself than is true) but is more like an attitude. The contrastive attitude is of course arrogance or presumptuousness. A virtue is traditionally thought of as a habit that constitutes a strength. Humility can be thought of this way. It's a habit of thought, attitude, and action. It involves a proper self assessment with respect to others, and a proper valuing of others, an ability or proclivity to act for others as well as for the self. It is, in St Paul's terminology, understanding ourselves as parts of a whole, members of a body, whose health we depend upon."

I find this helpful because it leads away from humility as something self-serving. How does that work? It goes to this notion that passivity is not necessarily the same as humility. It may well be the soft arrogance of indifference.

If you work for someone that you feel doesn't really care about people, and at the same time, doesn't force himself on you, but lets the group chart their own path, then he is not so much humble as lacking in the heart that is needed to be a leader who is passionate about people and a shared vision for their impact together. To be both passionate and know that you are not the most important person requires humility. It is a hard place to get to, but one that brings great satisfaction.

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