In the search for enduring happiness, humility is an often overlooked quality. In our fast-paced and ambition-fuelled world we tend to value assertiveness, a go-get attitude and a healthy dose of self-promotion. Successful people fill the covers and pages of magazines and newspapers with their high-profile lives, sending an unspoken message that humility is not going to get you very far. If your goal is a life in the spotlights, that may be true. But if all you long for is a simple, meaningful and happy life, then humility is indispensable.
Humble people don’t stand out, yet they exude an invisible force, a hidden strength that gives them an aura of nobility, peacefulness and grace. To be in the company of a truly humble person is a blessing, because their gentleness and kindness brings to the fore our own good qualities. We can learn much from humble people. Here are 10 things humble people do differently.
- They don’t think they know everything
Humble people are aware of the fact that there are infinitely more things they do not know, than things they know. That’s why they are always eager to learn. If their own views or opinions change because of something they hear, read, see or discover, they don’t resist or rebel against this new truth, but are happy that they have become wiser because of it. Since their learning, growing and becoming wiser never stop, they have a constant supply of newness and freshness in their life. And that is synonymous with being really happy.
- They make others feel special
Humble people don’t draw attention to themselves. Instead, they are more interested in the people around them. They feel that each life is unique and special in some way, and are curious to find out what experiences others have gone through in life. They value and respect each human being, because they know all of us face challenges and difficulties in life.
- They don’t forget to love themselves
At the same time, humble people don’t erase their own importance. They have realized that to acquire real, unconditional love, we have to love ourselves first. Humble people can extend love to others, precisely because they love themselves in a healthy, constructive way. This love is not based on the ego, but has its origins in the soul, the divine spark residing deep within us.
If we don’t have something first, we cannot give. Loving ourselves is essential if we truly want to love others. If we don’t love ourselves, our love for others will always have some expectation or demand in it. We expect others to be grateful to us, or to show us love in return. But this is not pure love, not unconditional love. Humble people can make others feel special, because they honour their own uniqueness. They can be selfless, because they already feel loved.
“Humility doesn’t mean taking a back seat. When you take a back seat consciously and deliberately in order to show others how humble you are, you are not being humble at all.”
-Sri Chinmoy, TheJewels of Happiness
- They live in the heart, rather than the mind
True humility is based on the feeling of oneness. In essence all life is one. But we can feel this truth only when we are in the heart, not in the mind. The very nature of the mind is to divide and separate. The mind feels that my life, my reality is completely separated from yours. In the mind-world we are all little islands that have nothing to do with one another. To the mind everyone is a stranger.
The heart knows no strangers. It goes beyond the apparent physical separation and feels that on a deeper level we are all connected. We are all little drops inside the same ocean of existence. The heart will always focus on what unites us, rather than on what divides us. This is the basis of true humility, because if there is oneness, there can be no feeling of superiority or inferiority.
How can you start living in the heart? For that you have to pray and meditate. Spiritual discipline is the art of diving and digging within in order to discover your inner treasures of love, peace and happiness. If you can meditate on the heart every day, even just for a few minutes, slowly and steadily you will discover the beautiful feeling of oneness and automatically develop a sense of true humility.
- They are happy in the happiness of others
When we see other people being successful or happy, we usually find it difficult to be happy for them. Quite often we are stung by an unpleasant feeling of jealousy. We secretly hope that their success will disappear or that some calamity will take place in their life, and we get a form of malicious joy if it does.
Even though we know we should be happy and not jealous with others’ successes, we find it difficult, if not impossible, to really feel it. This has to do with our ego – that obnoxious, overambitious fellow inside us that always feels it has to compete with the whole world in order to maintain its supremacy.
Humble people have discovered a way to silence the voice of the ego. Because they live more in the heart, they find it easy to identify themselves with others’ success and progress. “If you live in your heart, others’ joy will secretly enter into you and widen your heart,” Sri Chinmoy writes.
Humble people are happy in the happiness of others, because they know that the more happy people there are in the world, the more positive energy will circulate, making our world a more pleasant place to live for everybody. The success of others makes humble people grateful, because that success serves as an example that gives them the encouragement, inspiration and courage to also make the best of their lives.
- They like to share what they have
Very often we jealously guard the things we have to offer. Whether it is knowledge, skills, personal qualities, experiences, inspiration or possessions, we feel that if we share them with others, we will lose the privilege of having them for ourselves. We’re afraid we will lose our uniqueness, because we feel that when we share what we have with others they will soon surpass us.
Humble people beg to differ. They know that real joy and happiness lie in giving and sharing, not in keeping everything to ourselves. When you give, you expand your reality and become one with others. In this way you gradually grow into the realisation that the whole world belongs to you and that you belong to the world as well. This feeling adds meaning, purpose and happiness to your life.
A tree that has no fruits, flowers or shade to offer stands tall and erect. But a tree that is laden with fruits and flowers bends down to offer its gifts to whoever passes by.
- They admit their mistakes
When a child learns how to walk he constantly falls down. Yet every time he falls down, he just gets up and tries again. The child doesn’t feel that falling down is a failure. He knows that falling down is just part of the process of learning how to walk.
Likewise, humble people know that making mistakes is a necessary step in our search for growth, perfection and improvement. They’re not afraid to admit their mistakes, because they feel they can learn from them.
If we overlook our mistakes, or blame somebody else for them, we will continue making the same mistakes time and again. But if we have the courage to admit we’ve done or seen something wrong, or made a bad decision, our sincere confession will give us the strength, wisdom and determination not to make that mistake again in the future.
- They prefer listening to talking
In a conversation humble people behave like real gentlemen and ladies. They don’t interrupt others or add corrections all the time – even if the other person happens to be wrong. Instead they listen to what others have to say, because they know it is the only way to truly understand where the other person is coming from.
Listening is an art. It requires concentration, patience, concern and an inquisitive nature. By talking about what we already know, we do not learn anything new. But by truly listening to others, we often discover new truths.
- When talking they don’t talk about themselves
Although I love my father very much, he isn’t a person I would single out for humility. Whenever my dad would enter into a conversation, in no time it would turn into a biopic of himself. Anything related to a place he had been or a person he knew, he would immediately seize upon to highjack the conversation. No matter how many times my sister and me would bring it to his attention, he just couldn’t help himself.
For some reason people love talking about themselves. Our ego is an attention junkie and will do almost anything to get its fix. By talking about ourselves we hope to draw admiration from others, which makes us (read: our ego) feel important, special and unique.
Humble people have transcended that childish need. They don’t need the admiration or attention of others to confirm their uniqueness. They engage in conversations not to boost their ego, but to have a meaningful exchange of ideas.
- They’re not bloated with pride when they achieve something
Nothing is more annoying than to listen to somebody blowing his own horn. Yet human nature is such that whenever we achieve something, pride immediately enters with its loud drum to claim the victory. We feel that it was all due to our personal effort. Yet if we fail, it was never our fault.
Humble people give credit where credit is due. When they achieve something, they know that aside from their own personal effort, they also received divine help from above. Humble people will agree with the Bhagavad Gita’s wise teaching that we have the right to act, but we cannot claim the fruit of our action.
“The seed of humility is exceptionally fertile. It does not germinate plants of power and force, but it yields flowers of sweetness, grace, modesty and light.”
-Sri Chinmoy, TheJewels of Happiness
Artwork by Sri Chinmoy