An Exercise in Humility

Glancing at a current issue of Vanity Fair, not one but several celebrity questionnaires assault my eyes. And it’s not so much the responses they have given (though I discover, if words reflect accurately, that Matt Damon seems a decent sort of human being) – but it’s more the questions themselves that prompt my own inner Interviewer to grasp the stub of a pencil lurking in her French rolled coif and, licking its tip, gaze penetratingly and directly at me, gauging my response as she queries, What do you consider your worst trait? Under that ironclad stare, I know in a millisecond that wiggling out from under an honest answer is futile. Instead without hesitation and yet humble in the assurance that I do not enjoy admitting it, I let spill judging others.

Being aware of this quality or fault, depending on how one perceives it (discernment seems more palatable somehow than judgment) has ultra-sensitized me to the importance of accepting others on their own ground. Knowing this and practicing it as best I am able, I still admit that the first thoughts proverbially popping into mind when confronted with new faces are the instant laser-like assessments: What a space shot! Doesn’t she know how transparent she is? He ought to get over himself! These are three separate examples of what might leap to mind. Of course I don’t articulate these thoughts and to my credit I do sit with them – striving to understand why, knowledge and faith be damned, this remains such automatic behavior. I don’t like to harbor such conclusions, yet at this stage in life I am comforted in finally accepting my warts and all. If I can’t be kind to myself, it is most unlikely I will ever fully cultivate this trait toward another.

One of the greatest gifts in garnering wisdom is not in knowing how perfect I am, but that I am able to acknowledge and accept my imperfections, escorting them into the light of awareness. When I dare to delve into these less savory aspects, I come up with mirror images for the examples offered, above: In tribute to the spacey among us, I am able to admit to an outright sense of envy that I can’t be looser and less hyper-responsible. As pertains to transparent people, I am far too vulnerable and fearful that I will be targeted because of my own lack of guile. And as for labeling egomaniacs? Deep down inside I possess some pretty reliable resources. In fact I have been told by friends that, before they knew me, I appeared somewhat aloof due to a perceived aura of competence and confidence. So much for perceptions, as my judgments clearly arise from fear of my own inadequacies.

The real kicker to this whole diatribe is that I have often been hailed as one of the least judgmental of persons by others. And, since paradox seems to be a human trait, I would agree – demonstrating what I have suspected for some time: just as no one can truly know the angst I suffer at the hands of my own inner demons,  I can never fully know another. After all, I’m still working on knowing myself! And no matter how honest I try to be, I only share aspects of that self that are appropriate in any given moment and situation. Factor in the other seven billion inhabitants of the planet, and it’s easy to surmise that labeling people prevents me from allowing others to reveal the treasure trove of their complexity.

 

 

image: viva la vibs

14 comments on “An Exercise in Humility”

  1. Ah, the humanity of it all…..

  2. i love paradox. the tensions keep the ecosystems going. and your descriptions of your journey of self awareness and acceptance is familiar to those of us who work the 12 steps.

  3. This morning, a neighbor came huffing through a foot of snow as I was shovelling my driveway… “I hate the snow,” she said. I was enjoying my extra-strenous exercise.. clearly, I was loving the snow. It;s a stereotype – that we have to “hate” the snow because of the hardwork it leaves in it’s wake. I turned around and saw two dogs frolicking in the glittering wetness. “What fun those two are having,” was my reply. She saw the dogs and smiled – a real smile. In that instant, she didn’t have time to hate.
    My point is can we catch ourselves as we are thinking our thoughts and in that nano second turn it around? What if we practise this often enough, that we start seeing the humor in all this madness – thus releiving us of any stress and so automatically remianing loose? This was precisely what I was working on myself!! I have a little EFT(emotional freedom techniques) group that meets once a month and we “tap” on things that stress us and we see how we can shift things and manifest different results. Loads of fun! http://www.eftuniverse.com. I can send you some videos if you like to know more.

    P.S. : I love Matt Damon.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate you stopping by and sharing them.
      It might not be clear from the post, but I am not talking about having these thoughts and opinions ‘all’ the time – and yes, when we can catch our thoughts, it’s a grand thing. Why mindfulness is so effective for so many, including me!
      I write about this not to ‘process’ so much as to offer it to others who might be struggling with perceived imperfections. None of us are perfect or conscious all the time. And after filling a role as spiritual teacher for some 30 years now, what I have come to is that I care to ‘direct’ and ‘teach’ less; rather one reason (and certainly not the ONLY reason) I write is to help others feel a kinship with the imperfection of humanity and yet dare to take steps and make changes, anyway! In my opinion, tools are great – but they are useless with self condemnation blocking the way to heartfelt experience. And I think there are many of us who have to ‘feel’ it in order to embed it into consciousness. Even then, practice is ever challenging.
      One of the best tools I know is the Enneagram. In this ancient model, there are ‘head’ types, ‘heart’ types and ‘gut’ types. It demonstrates how we are different and sometimes the same. Of course we all share these three elements – what is elucidated in this model is where we primarily ‘react’ from. FMI in case anyone’s interested. Now enough analysis! ;D
      Again, thanks for sharing and leaving your link, as well – perhaps some will find it helpful.

  4. ha, ha.. yes..no teachings here. My comment was mostly to myself – as in how your thoughts passed through me as well. The only revealing piece was “I love Matt Damon”.. I also like baked sweet potato with butter and cardamom 😉 thanks for listening … i will look up Enneagram.

  5. A Catholic priest listened to me talk about my work – about 27 years ago. At the end of our visit, he said, “You may be interested in a tape I have. It’s Richard Rohr talking to a group of Nuns about the Enneagram.”

    “The what?”

    “Enneagram. Just listen to the tape and see if it interests you. If it does, let’s talk about it.”

    Five minutes into that tape, I had my cardboard out, drew lines as though it were a pie and labelled each piece of pie with a personality type. I summarized characteristics, colour coded it, named the “sin” and the “virtue” and tried endlessly to see where I fit.

    The little priest graciously and gently helped me discover my type…Oh, God! I was staring at gross, unwelcome and crushing imperfections!

    It was one of the best insights I have been given! 🙂

    • Yeah, I find different interpreters of the Enneagram lend different flavors to it. I love Riso and Hudson’s evenhanded, compassionate approach – but also possess books by Helen Palmer (perhaps the language “sin” and “virtue” came from her?), Eli Jaxon Bear and Sandra Maitri.
      It’s been such a mainstay in my life for the longest time – allowing me to accept my own imperfections as my challenges for spiritual development. It also helps me respect the paths of others that don’t necessarily follow the same trajectory.
      Thanks for your comments as always, Amy. Blessings to you.

  6. My curiosity always seems to outweigh my judgements, sometimes even my better judgement. But you, my friend, I just love you and your writing 🙂

  7. Every time I visit you, I find something that makes me smile and say, “That’s so like me.” It is amazing how two people could be so alike in their thoughts and evaluations. It couldn’t just be the stars. And no, I am not pointing out at anything supernatural. It is just so, well, smile-giving. 🙂

    • Glad you find it amusing Priya! I figure hey, why not tell it “all!?” We’re only human. And in letting the cat out of the bag, we become more aware of our shortcomings – after all, others know us better and can see us more clearly because of it. I love anything that removes disguise and reveals the vulnerable, fragile being that lies beneath. And though we all possess great heart as well as these more unsavory qualities, the hope is that, in knowing we have some of these less-desirable things in common, we can relax a bit – love ourselves a bit more. Have courage to be mindful and not shut down and simply keep on repeating automatic behaviors. These are my hopes as a human being, not just as a professional.


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