Politeness Versus Humility

Politeness Versus Humility

In the absence of humility any spiritual attainment vanishes like dew upon sunrise

Poitnes is often nothing more than a projection of being humble, whereas humility is true renunciation of a sense of being special.

The former is a social etiquette at the most, while the latter is a state of mind. Many polite people walk the spiritual path, but only the humble reach the pinnacle of attainment. Think Buddha, Mahavira, Guru Nanak. Does not their humility strike you as one of the foremost traits of their personality?

One can have a cluttered mind and a dark heart, and yet he can be an utterly polite person. In other words, with politeness one can portray a certain purity and character that he may not possess at all. Politeness is how we want others to see us. To be humble, however, is a different ball game altogether. Humility is how we actually are.

Simplicity at Core

Only a simple heart can be humble. A mind that is unafraid of believing and dreaming, a childlike heart that is both sensitive and vulnerable can aspire to be humble. Think again of the above lists of enlightened souls. Are not their lives and conduct an example of simplicity?

That is because simplicity and humility go hand-in-hand. Failure to grasp this fundamental difference between politeness and humility is what trips most seekers. All the time I meet aspirants who have spent many hours in meditation, but their focus remains only on the number of hours clocked and not on cultivating the essential virtues (compassion, empathy, humility etc.).

As a result, they become increasingly rigid and carry about themselves an air of superiority and entitlement. It is missing the whole point of treading the spiritual path. When we evolve spiritually, we learn to respect and love others. Empathy and compassion flows out from the vessel of your life like the Ganges from Gangotri: constant and drip-by-drip.

Secretly, each one of us feels we are important and special. A polite person often feels that he or she is more important and special than others. And most ironically, it is their politeness that evokes such feelings in them. Even humble people quietly harbour feelings of being

special, for humility does not mean that you cannot think highly of yourself, or that you deprecate yourself. It simply means that while you see yourself as special, you give others the same right to feel that about themselves. Humility does not require that you strip others of their personal sense of entitlement because, as said earlier, it is not a mannerism, but a state of mind.

Two Ways to Cultivate

There are two ways to cultivate humility. The easy way and the hard way. The latter is often not in our control. It is when life puts us through suffering or springs up on us some nasty surprise that forces us to put things in perspective. Like life's most methods, it is painful but transformational. It can smash our false sense of superiority in a single blow.

The easy way is in our control. It begins by being a keen observer and a good listener. It is instilled by taking the time to know those around you. As you observe and listen, you will discover that you are surrounded by people who are talented and skilled at something or the other. These quiet ones do not go around marketing their talents or staking any claims of being special, but when they are in a state of flow, they are a sight to behold. In my vocation, I meet highly skilled musicians, artists, writers and poets all the time. While their skill fascinates me, their humility melts me more than their talent.

Think of someone very ordinary around you. Now go and take the time to know that person. You will be surprised at how special this person may turn out to be. It is humbling. Try it any day.

Of little use are our prayers and practices if we cannot get over our sense of superiority, if we cannot see the goodness and divinity in those around us.

Any spiritual attainment without humility vanishes quickly, leaving the seeker worse off than ever before. 

In a rushed world where we promote competition, where we thrive on exerting superiority and authority for gains of all kinds, where humbleness is sometimes seen as a sign of weakness, the reality is that blessed are those who carry in their hearts the warmth of humility.

Be humble if you wish to be strong, for humility is the ultimate strength.

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