How to be Humble

The title for this entry is meant to be in jest. If it were serious, it would be in grave arrogance to think that I could bestow a virtue unto someone that I don’t deem myself worthy of. I’m too damn young to be humble yet.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but as a man – I think it’s safe to say that puberty instilled a degree of hubris in me that still lingers. At least for me, that’s when I began to stray from the humility that my childhood had instilled in me and perhaps the very humility that was intrinsic to my nature.

Which begs the question, are we born humble?

I’ve frequently stated my belief that our childlike nature is closest to our true human nature. And that’s a recurring and core theme in my writing – detaching from our ego and returning to the true, childlike nature we were born with; because I think we were born pure.

You see, I have a hard time following any theological doctrine that posits all of humanity is born with Original Sin, which, as a creed, means that as a result of Adam and Eve disobeying G-d and eating from The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, all of their descendents became infected with the state of their transgression and serious spiritual consequences were transmitted to all of the human race since the Fall of Man.

That breathless sentence reaches far beyond the implicit meaning that we are born with an inclination to sin. Original Sin as an article of faith means that we are born as slaves to sin, and humanity alone cannot save itself from hell.

Interestingly, in the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew 18:1-4 seems to contradict this

18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And I must interject to offer a caveat of sorts to my readers:

I have a coexist sticker on the back of my car. I respect multiple faiths and beliefs. When I talk about beliefs, even in a secular sense, I like to explore the origins of cultural ethea, which ultimately leads to religion. My personal approach to philosophy is that this enriches my learning and gives my writing a deeper foundation rooted in the rich cultural history of mankind. We cannot ignore the fact that many of our core beliefs are rooted in traditions that began thousands of years ago, and they have thus been instilled within us.

But for myself, to believe that we are born impure is simply antithetical to the ‘world’ I want to bring children into. And I may have arrived in into this world after ~100 generations of my ancestors believing their children were conceived and born in sin – but I will conceive my children on a boat out of pure love and delightful pleasure.

And yes, I just went down the rabbit hole a bit, but that’s the joy of writing and having your own damn blog.

Back to humility.

So, we are born without pride – right? Or are we born with humility? Or, are we just born with a blank, pure white slate?

I didn’t really answer that, I just postulated that we aren’t born as depraved, hopeless sinners. Which doesn’t pit me at odds with every Abramaic religion, but certainly is counter to a tenet which is core to the doctrine of the most popular faiths.

Fine by me, we all know what happened to the popular kids in high school.

So, I will further expand upon my black sheep mentality and say that yes, we are born with humility. As I conveyed in my previous post, Changing the Context of Your Life, our beliefs are extremely important to the manner in which we perceive the world.

And being born with humility, what happened? How did we become so arrogant, and prideful?

Oh yeah, life happened. We didn’t grow up in the Garden of Eden and we don’t get to look back on some linear progression of our personality tracing straight back to our youth. We’ve all but forgotten the children we were.

As we faced things in the real world we began to develop an ego as we discovered a sense of ‘self’ and we erected all these facades and attitudes that were completely oppositional to humility.

We packed on baggage as if there were some inherent buoyancy that we needed to stay afloat.

And in my life, I became an outlier on the spectrum of pride and arrogance. I wasn’t an outlier because I was less-so either.

Sure, I was still a nice guy and was certainly never mean-spirited by nature, but I made choices, in my values, in my heroes, and in my relationships that pigeonholed me into a very uncreative person who based my identity on others’ perceptions of me. Quite simply, I used pride an arrogance in an attempt to convince others I was worthy.

And by the time I was 21, I had convinced myself of that as well.

But then, more life happened.

But, here’s where it gets interesting. You see, eventually it was life’s adversity that truly began to humble me; although, in my early twenties life’s toughest challenges didn’t yet have that effect.

I experienced things that brought me to an all time low and they may have dented my ‘healthy self esteem’, but I only overcompensated with more pride and arrogance as I rose through the valleys and out of the ashes of my self-pity.

And I found ‘success’ again temporarily. But, as it is said pride comes before the fall. So, in my success I became super-arrogant. As if my attitude was ‘I’ve made it through my troubles on my own and I’m out of the woods because I dragged myself to higher ground on my own, and look at me now’.

But when the fall eventually came, everything that I had built on that foundation of pride and arrogance crashed down and left me in an abysmal state that lingered for a good couple years. I tried to recreate the same success and I tried to do it on the same foundation and it never even got off the ground. It backfired. Only now, my identity was so clouted in baggage that I didn’t even see how detached from my true-self that I had become.

It is said that rock bottom is when you stop digging. And for me, I couldn’t go lower – because I had finally disproved my pride and my arrogance to myself. I saw what perhaps only one other person in the world did.

In paragraph one, I wrote that I’m too damn young to be humble yet. And that’s partly true. But life has started to humble me.

I came to a couple realizations lately:

Realization #1: At a certain point in life you are faced with a kind of choice. You can either stop giving a fuck, or start giving one.

Realization #2: I always felt superior to the kind of guys who ‘didn’t start getting their shit together till about 30’ or I thought I had it together at 21 and at 24.

So, yes. I officially give a fuck. About everything that matters. That encompasses a lot today.

Yeah, I’m getting it together. On many fronts.

Those are just a couple byproducts of this shift in my persona from arrogant and prideful to the more humble guy who is writing this tonight.

But, it didn’t happen overnight. It was a journey.

Do you really want to know how to become humble?

Here are the steps:

1. Start out with excessive pride and arrogance based off of external things.

2. Experience heart break.

3. Let your life go to ruin and move to a new city, close to the beach.

4. Spend six months in said city drinking frequently and feeling sorry for yourself, until you are dead broke.

5. Move back in with your mom and get a job as a busboy.

6. Continue to fixate your identity on external things.

7. Spend another year working on an internet business until it takes off

8. Earn your prior income approx every month, spend all of it.

9. Get back with the girl who broke your heart.

10. In 9 months, let everything go to shit again – leaving yourself in another new city alone.

11. Move to a large Midwestern city for 9 months, repeating step 4.

12. Move back home to moms or to a friend’s couch.

13. Find amazing girl.

14. Continue to behave like self-entitled jerk with large chip on shoulder.

15. Move to another new city for a job, but quickly let life go to shit.

16. Get to brink of losing girl from step 13.

17. Realize that all of this pain doesn’t have to keep repeating itself and that you are a better person without all of the baggage.

18. Be humble!

It worked for me.

Changing The Context of Your Life

The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe. – Albert Einstein

This past year I have come to accept that the world is a friendly place, people are inherently good.

But that’s not just a choice you decide to make. It has to go deeper than that to actually have any lasting impact.

Come on, let’s go down the rabbit hole of the ego.

To hold the belief that the world is inherently good we need to understand that the external world is a reflection of the internal self.

So we have to internalize that in ourselves, because without doing so, we fail to recognize the inescapable truth that our ego has a way of supporting our beliefs; because the ego always has to be right.

We must create a shift in our ego that is going to facilitate a true accepting of others as friendly, and good – without reserving too much judgement; because once we do that, we bait a sort of trap for ourselves.

If our ego could speak it might say something like ‘well, let me see about this person because I don’t generally trust people because of the past and I have always been right’.

And then the moment we see a chink in their armor our ego goes ‘yup! Just like I knew. That sucks, because I actually gave them a chance too’.

Bullshit. The ego doesn’t give chances. The ego creates situations and opportunities to fulfill it’s role as protector of our real fears: our vulnerability and our insecurity.

There is a great book by Don Miguel Ruiz, called The Four Agreements. In this book he says that we shouldn’t take anything personally; that someone should be able to say we are the best person in the world or the worst person in the world and either should mean nothing to us.

In some zen, egoless state of nirvana perhaps we could all feel that way, but in reality we have egos and our ego is the part of us that cares what other people think. So while we feel like our daily interpersonal communications and our relationships are a product of our best efforts, we are mistaken.

Sure, we all feel like we are on our own to some degree when it comes to navigating our way through the relationships that life offers us, but in truth we are a vehicle for our egos to support the beliefs that the ego has developed.

The beliefs of the ego have been created to protect ‘us’ from fears that the ego wants to push on us, but in actuality those very same fears belong to the ego as well.

Our true beliefs are far different because they come from who we are. The beliefs of the ego come from who our ego wants others to think we are and that is the source of our fears.

The ego is not a kind master. It keeps us captive, preventing us from accessing the true nature of others and the true innermost nature of ourselves.

Our ego driven communications are shallow and they do not reach the selves of others. They only activate the ego of another and it creates a cycle of superficiality.

So how do we break this cycle? How do we access the beautiful, authentic, trusting and true friendships and love that is inside each person that we come into contact with, as well as ourselves.

We have to realize that the fears of the ego are irrational. This is counter to Freudian principles, which have labeled the ego as representing reason and common sense. Hardly.

Remember our ego has one need that is paramount to all other selfish needs of the ego: The ego begs for attention.

So perhaps the ego wants to feel inflated and smug. Well, what happens when a situation doesn’t create this outcome? We get upset, which is really fine for the ego because even if we are fighting with someone we love, we are still getting attention.

But there is a second need that is dangerous when combined with the ego’s need for attention. It’s the ego’s need for validation.

This is a dangerous combination because the ego has to create beliefs that support the situations we encounter. This is where judgement arises into our minds, from the ego.

The ego is constantly creating new beliefs so as to not be caught off guard. The ego is where all of our emotional baggage resides. The ego doesn’t care about our true belief system. It will create beliefs that aren’t even congruent with who we are in order to ‘protect us’.

And that creates inauthenticity.

I could continue to posit more assertions about the ego but I think I have made it clear that it is not only a major blockade to our relationships in life, but it’s also a perpetual stopgap from allowing us to be who we are.

We have all heard about transcending our egos and all of that jazzy wonder, but how is this really accomplished.

One does not simply transcend an ego. We are talking about the driving force in most of or lives and the combatant to our inner consciousness.

I’ll share with you what I believe to be accurate thoughts on my own ego.

My ego is the part of me that is afraid to die. My ego is the part of me that has allowed me to survive without a true understanding of my spirituality for so long. My ego is simply a bandaid for my lack of faith. Faith in myself, faith in others, and chiefly faith in a power greater than I.

I know one irrefutable fact about my ego. Nothing within me will master it alone.

So, I’m going to stop challenging my ego. I’m going to stop surrendering to it. I’m going to present my ego with the only power that it will surrender to.

I believe that spirituality can take over from here.

I believe that my spirituality understands human nature far better than I do and that conscious contact with my creator can allow me to live life according to my true nature.

I believe that to love and to be loved has a lot less to do with love for ourselves and a lot more to do with love for others and love for a higher power.

And this isn’t a moment of transcendence that we choose and poof, the ego is gone, this is the beginning of a journey. One that requires conscious focus on staying in contact with my creator.

When I fail to do that, I invite the ego back in and it will attempt to take over my life again.

I must choose to travel my journey with my higher power and that must be an ongoing, active process.

Matthew 6:24 says:

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

Only one of these masters can truly care for you.

Which master are you going to choose to serve today?

Choose the one who will free you from your false beliefs and judgements, allowing you to see the universe as it really is: a friendly place.

Choose the one who will open new doors to relationships and new doors in existing relationships. Choose the one who will allow you a chance at a new relationship with yourself and the opportunity to truly love and be loved. Make this choice and you will begin to live life as you were meant to live it.

I believe that if you can find a power bigger and better than your ego, the entire context of your life will change.