On Christmas and Humility

I’ve talked a lot about humility over the past few weeks, examining it as an attitude of serene confidence, and as the foundation of all other virtues absent which one can only pretend at such. I’ve examined humility as practice, and even examined just how far afield, philosophically speaking, one must go in order to find systems that label humility a vice, and extol pride as virtue.

What I think has been interesting in the exercise is that, in looking for quotes around which I could build a post, I was struck by just how widespread is the phenomenon of seeing humility labeled as something virtuous. It’s in corporate philosophies, Taoism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and more, and you can even find many a secular writer speaking at length about why it is a key practice and way to live. There is even some research which suggests that humility is a fundamental trait of the strongest leaders, when matched with unflinching resolve.

Even Richard Garriott’s Eight Virtues highlights the need to be humble as being paramount. After all, it was Old Macincia that was destroyed for her pride, her offense against the Virtue. Other Britannian towns have been destroyed over the years, but none for being in opposition to the Virtue they were meant to espouse. Humility, in Ultima is explained as:

Perceiving one’s own place in the world according to the value of all individuals.

And in that definition, it can be seen how humility is a precursor to the other Virtues, necessary to practice any of them. And yet, at the same time, it is unlike any of the others.

For me, of course, this is the time of year in which two powerful examples of humility are observed and remarked upon: that of Jesus, and that of Mary. And we can look at either person and see with relative ease just how humility is expressed and exemplified by each. Christ, both fully human and fully divine, took our place in the world and perceived Himself alongside us; He lived His days preaching of the value and intrinsic worth of all individuals, especially the lowly. His attitude was indeed one of serene confidence, He pretended no virtue, and his every action was steeped in humbleness…and fierce resolve in His holy purpose.

So too Mary; here was a woman who, when confronted with a seemingly impossible and terrifying circumstance, responded with serenity and confidence in God’s will. Her words, the Magnificat, are among the most beautiful in all of Scripture, and are steeped in a powerful resolve…but also humility and grace.

You, good reader, may not look to the Mother and the Son as examples in the same way as I do, but I’m going to go out on a limb and posit that all of us here see humility as being something cardinal, something key, a moral or ethical foundation that we strive toward…as well we should. For it is the strength, the serenity, the confidence that enables all the other virtues we uphold, and without it we uphold them merely as charades.

Merry Christmas. Wherever you are, and whomever you are with, be to them an example of humility in all its many facets. And be safe out there, if you happen to be traveling.

(Image credit: Beyond Bones)

9 Responses

  1. Sanctimonia says:

    Merry Christmas to you. Mine was fine, spending it with my parents, brother and his wife. Maria’s in Venezuela with Geoff for Christmas and New Year’s with her family.

    It would be interesting to see how the virtue of humility could be common across a neighborhood, city, state, country or the world. I imagine the kill rate would decrease and there’d be more cooperation and sharing. Is it possible to exhibit humility as you select and kill someone? Perhaps the humble man only kills other people when they’re running at him with a weapon. No wars, tribal beat-downs, or any of that primitive shit. Someone should make a new philosophy to replace the current three based on humility. Everyone would be nice to each other.

    • WtF Dragon says:

      The same could arguably be said about any of the extant belief systems (more than just three, in fact) that teach the value of humility, were any of these actually fully lived out by those who claim to be adherents thereof.

      It’s not, pace Chesterton, that such ideals have been tried and found lacking, but rather that they have been found difficult and left untried.

      • Sanctimonia says:

        Well if G-kizzle is right then we’re doomed as a species. We are incapable en masse of escaping our beastly beginnings. Maybe if technology evolves such that thirst, hunger, homelessness and envy of physical possessions are no longer possible then society can evolve better manners. Staying on the path of virtue is easy when every need has been met and temptations hardly exist. Test men and most will fall short, and we live in a very tested world.

      • WtF Dragon says:

        Concupiscence is very real.

        I think the lesson I take away from such things is that man is fallen, and lacks the necessary fortitude and capacity to save himself. Salvation, if it is to come to mankind, will not come from within the ranks and number of men. Or women, for that matter. Whatever form it takes, it will come from something very far outside of our ability to grasp…or emulate.

      • Sanctimonia says:

        Alien evolutionary intervention à la Prometheus and the black goo it is, then. Or divine salvation for those who prefer fantasy to sci-fi.

        Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

        Great movie, btw. Ridley Scott is a surprisingly religious man.

      • WtF Dragon says:

        I actually didn’t care for Prometheus all that much. Not for any philosophical reasons, but for purely stylistic ones; Scott shat all over a number of established sci-fi conventions, and not for the better.

        As for the blood of the covenant, I’m something of a fan, and take it regularly.

      • Sanctimonia says:

        Just make sure the guy giving communion isn’t a black-eyed albino in a robe and you’ll be fine.

        Out of curiosity, which conventions were shat upon? I’ve heard a lot of reasons for not liking the film but that is a new one. It seemed like stock Alien/Aliens tech other than the holograms.

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