…let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
—The Charge of the Goddess
Here continues a series of blog entries undertaking to examine each of the eight qualities that our Great Mother advises us to cherish in our hearts.
What Is Humility?
Having humility means to be humble. And humble means “modest, lowly in manner, respectful”—the word derives from the same root as the word humus, the organic matter of soil…or, what comes out of your compost heap when it is ready to dig into your vegetable garden. Grounded, rooted, earthed—those are the words I would also choose as having similar meaning, certainly in a magical sense.
While I expound on definitions, here are a few more root meanings that follow through the maze of interrelated definitions:
- modest—self-controlled, moderate, temperate
- manner—method, appearance, custom, bearing
- respect—regard, esteem, favor
“Pride separates people; humility joins them.”
—Socrates, c. 5th century BCE
This quote of Socrates’ supports something I & my high priest taught our students for the past two decades—if you boil Wicca down to a one-word core concept, it is “connection”; (K.C.’s example for Christianity was “forgiveness” or for Buddhism was “mindfulness”). Humility joins people, and that junction, that connection, so key to the love and trust intrinsic to Wiccan magic & Wiccan ritual—that connection depends on the equalizing effect of humility as much as it depends on that love and trust.
I choose to employ modest as the most useful synonym for humility. Moderate in manner, showing respect for others, holding one‘s own accomplishments as equal in worth to those of others—those are traits of a humble person.
…remember what peace there may be in silence…
Speak your truth quietly and clearly…
Keep interested in your own career, however humble…
—Max Ehrmann, Desiderata excerpts
“As if true pride
Were not also humble!”
Without resorting an exposition on the necessity of self-esteem, I will simply say that the healthy spirit values its own achievements, addresses and repairs its own failures, and rejects both undeserved praise together with undeserved opprobrium. Aristotle wordily discusses, in his Nicomachean Ethics, what I will summarize as a spectrum of internal evaluation, or self-esteem: with inappropriate humility at one end and vainglory at the far end; he places earned pride as a balanced midpoint. Browning‘s simple couplet encapsulates Aristotle’s essay, yet both emphasize the value of knowing one’s own worth.