Understanding Humility – Joseph Addai Kusi

Understanding Humility – Joseph Addai Kusi

Understanding Humility can be a hard thing to define or understand in people. It is easier to understand in Latin. “Humilitas,” the word from which it comes is related to “humilis,” from “humus” which means “of the earth or the ground.”
Humility therefore is to have a view of one’s self, in relation to others and the world, which is grounded; an earth level view, an outlook that is tethered solidly to reality. This explains why Solomon equated the highest behaviours of wisdom with humility. To be in touch with the ground is to be wise, to have a view of things as they are.
It is hard for a humble person to be deceived about himself or others, because he sees things just as they are. Humility is not making yourself low; it is understanding that you are low.
For instance, a humble person has a ground level view that, there are millions of books in millions of libraries across the world, and he will never know what is in 0.0000000000001% of them. This is what makes him slow to speak and swift to listen. It is not because he thinks he is stupid or you are more intelligent. Of course, the humble know when they are in the presence of one wiser or more intelligent than themselves.
Humility is to be in touch with the ground. When you meet a humble person, you will not remember the word “humble,” but you will certainly sense a free, unaffected, unpretentious, “no need to exert or explain myself” attitude about them. The best way to describe it is, you sense you are in the presence of a child. They have no airs and graces about them, even if they are important or sophisticated people. Their virtues do not announce themselves anymore than their vices seek a disguise. They diffuse a natural and organic earthiness, on an almost preverbal level. It is only by studying children that we can become this way.
Adulthood is our initiation into pride. Pride is for adults. Children are naughty, manipulative, stubborn, mischievous and bad, but they are not proud; they are humble. Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “The soul is healed by being with children.”
Most people we look upon as humble or who appear humble or who think themselves humble, are not humble at all. Sometime ago, someone pointed out to me that I might be humble. I was genuinely suprised, even amused, because I do not stand on a soap box or raise my hand to be counted among humble people. I do not like to think of myself in such terms. Pharasaic ostentation, I militantly avoid.
And then it dawned on me: humility is not making yourself lowly or advertising a voluntary self-abasement, and looking into people’s faces to see if they recognize it; it is being pure and free to be who you are, knowing things as they are. It is saying things as they are, with no masks or pretensions, or saying nothing “as they are.” Many of those we accuse of un-humility are not guilty of it, at least not to the degree we like to believe they are.
The proof of humility lies not in the ability or willingness to be quiet, lowly, sacrificial, self-denying, obsequious, long-suffering or self -deprecating. Humility is not monkhood. Rather, humility shows itself in rising up, speaking, acting, preventing, warning, loving, sharing and putting yourself out there, when the event calls upon you. People who hide behind shyness are usually proud. A humble person is not only sacrificial and giving when others need help, but also knows how to ask for and accept help. “I need help. Help me. I need you.”
Adults are preoccupied with pretending from morning till evening we don’t need anybody. This is why children are humble. They have no need to keep up pretenses. A humble person knows how to be quiet when the voice of another is what the moment needs, and to speak up when called upon, without fear for self or of others. If you are humble, you relate easily with the great. You are like a child. It is pride that makes one uncomfortable in the presence of greatness.
Ask an unreligious American, “Would you like a cup of coffee” and if he wants it, he is likely to say something like “Make that black, No sugar, Thank you.” The religious Ghanaian with her church-going self, even if she wants it will say, “Oh, no it’s ok.” That is what pride is.
A few years ago, I learned a big lesson from a white lady friend. I went into a meeting and after, socialized with a few people I knew. I did not see her seated in the corner, and proceeded to take my leave. As I walked through the door, she called out, “Joe, don’t you walk away from me like that.” Then she walked over, gave me a hug and squeezed me proper. It seemed to me she must have thought I was snubbing her. “Don’t do that again, you can’t say hello to everyone and leave me out,” she said to me. I knew she was not Ghanaian, but that day I understood why.
One could certainly tell it was not an arrogant attention seeking stunt, the kind of display a self-absorbed person with low self-esteem would put on, but mature behaviour fed by deep reserves of healthy self-esteem and robust self worth. To be humble is to be strong.
That is the way children are, and until we become that way, we are far from the Kingdom of God. It is not a too well kept secret among people of that ken which, suggests high levels of mental and spiritual evolution that, humility is a mark of intelligence. Arrogance or haughtiness, in such company, is likewise looked upon as a sign of simplicity.
Of those born in my generation who I have personally met or know, those born in the late 80s (that I personally know or have met, let me repeat,) I have felt intimidated in the presence of only two, in terms of intellect, intellectual genius or superior intelligence. It is not as if I am available to be intimidated intellectually by anyone who wishes, but these two are truly brilliant. They are both like children and they are both very humble. One is Canadian, the other, American and they are both women.
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