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)