Imagine these questions in a worthiness interview: Are you honest? Yes. – Do you keep the Word of Wisdom? Yes. – Are you humble? …
Humility, “the state of being humble”, seems to be a virtue we cannot cultivate intentionally. We can never say that we have developed it, perhaps not even that we are working on it, like honesty or moral cleanliness. Still we think we recognize humility in others – usually in the quiet, unassuming, moderate, unpretentious, patient person. An often quoted Scripture on the topic is:
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord sees fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19)
The descriptors seem unequivocal. But what if persons strive to be humble and somehow play the role to earn the recognition of being humble? That would exclude them from humility.
Next, does this call to humility as meekness and submissiveness not clash with the encouragement to excel, and even to compete â€“ in games, sports, academics, career? Impressing the public. Being stronger than others. Asserting oneself. Collecting rewards and trophees. To what extent can even the belief in the religious promise of glory and exaltation, the ultimate reward distinguishing the winner from the failed, square with humility? Can there be acceptable ambition in the realm of humility?
There is also an intercultural dimension at play. In certain cultures the call to stand out and excel as an individual, like some Church programs encourage us to do, may run counter to the social requirement to blend in and serve the common good. Stories in Church magazines and conference talks often hail individual achievement. Personal success is acclaimed. Praise and tributes are common from our pulpits. That sphere is extended to Church units abroad where it may perturb ingrained traditions and disturb relations.
Can a humble person voice a critical opinion? In certain contexts, perhaps more in the Church than out, one may be suspected of pride – and eventually rebuked.
Finally, as history shows, the emphasis on humility can be abused, to keep the poor submissive, the exploited compliant, the subordinate obedient. But humility does not seem to require humiliation, nor self-abasement, nor spineless docility.
So, how to achieve humility, if feasible to work on? Or who can help with a simple, but illuminating definition? Humility is …