Because the Best Things in Life ARE Free
All too often blurred and confused with the word humiliation, mistaken as groveling in some form, or as being humble to a fault, most people completely misunderstand and subsequently go on to grossly undervalue the simple, natural, spiritual quality of humility. They’re missing out on a veritable limitless treasure trove of inner peace, ease, comfort and contentment this world simply cannot match. No amount of worldly success can offer what humility can.
This world, or at least what humanity has made of it, sure seems bent on us not cultivating humility as something desirable. Humility and a world based on constant competition have no meeting place.
Ego & Humility – Oil & Water
One group that has it right, perhaps surprisingly so out of all the religions, societies and fellowships on the planet, is Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.). This is, in large part, because genuine humility is critical to long-term recovery from addiction, regardless of its form. The human ego plays a major role in the onset or initial seduction into addiction, as well as in the entanglement and eventual decent into chronic addiction. Humility, it turns out, is the perfect antidote to ego.
Ego is, after all, the cause of why so many of us tend to misunderstand, undervalue or ignore humility altogether. That’s because the ego has mastered the mental device of selective ignorance, or ‘contempt prior to investigation.’ It simply doesn’t serve our egos for us to investigate anything that would alert us to its foreign occupation of our minds; anything that would potentially weaken its control and grip over our minds, our thoughts and our perception.
Humility and ego cannot both occupy our mind at the same time; nor, for that matter, can spiritual or Self-Awareness and ego.
We should also duly note here that there are countless forms of addiction – we all have them to some degree, and we all have our “drug(s) of choice,” which may or may not be chemical- or substance-related, but behavior-related; an activity, an obsession, another person, etc. Fundamentally, we are really just addicted and clinging to states of mind rather than substances or behaviors. Until we seek recovery and healing, the chase is on. It’s why so many of us are cyclic in the types of relationships we seem to attract. The forms and substances we find to ‘take us there,’ to help produce the desired (or desperately needed) states of mind, are just a means to an end. And, we are often unknowingly addicted to pain every bit as much as to pleasure – it is only our learned perception that distinguishes which one we perceive. One person’s pain is another one’s pleasure.
The ego thought system itself is a form of addiction, being the oldest form of them all, usurping and often engulfing the minds of the vast majority of humanity, most often oblivious to its occupation. Ego is a state of mind – a thought system – one of separation, specialness and a distorted belief in ‘privacy’ and isolation, from our Creator, from each other and from the rest of Creation. We learn, adopt or acquire ego. We made it, or conjured it up in the imagination, so it is unnatural. As such, ego also – having admin access to the mind – is the proverbial architect of the matrix; a mental conundrum of duality that so many of us find ourselves in, at least those of us who muster enough Awareness to realize we are in one.
Humility becomes a doorway to freedom from the ego’s matrix.
Just What is Humility?
The A.A. book, Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions, chapter 5 covering step 5 offers a very simple, useful definition of humility: “it amounts to a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.” Humility is discussed in step 5 because this step is all about the willingness to ‘come clean’ – to become free of the past. Having just completed a rigorously honest look into oneself in the previous step 4, reviewing and putting to paper all conscious resentments, memorable past wrongs, any sources of guilt, including harms done to oneself and others – the person, looking to recover and heal, sees and acknowledges his or her own shortcomings of the past, free of any judgement, right up to the here and now.
Step 5 is a highly courageous step in the A.A. program of recovery, where this ‘personal inventory’ is then shared outwardly, privately of course, with another trusted human being in the presence of God, however one happens to understand God (or not).
This ‘revelationary’ step paves the way for people to begin to have a much clearer “recognition of what and who we really are,” free of, or underneath, all the mental and emotional baggage we human beings carry – the pain, shame, guilt, remorse and trauma of an accumulated past; only a small fraction of which most of us are even remotely aware of on a conscious level without taking such a step. And without completing this crucial step, that past, in the hands of a manipulative ego, remains a favorite weapon in the ego’s mental arsenal used to keep us hostage and in servitude to it, and to keep far out of our Awareness who we really are as limitless, spiritual beings; extensions of a loving Creator.
“Being right-sized” is another helpful term A.A. folks use for humility, meaning in relation to God and in equality with others, not being ‘better than or lesser than’. Another good term for humility shared around the rooms of A.A. is that of “being teachable.” These sayings demonstrate that humility has nothing whatsoever to do with humiliation. Alcoholics know humiliation and self-deprecation all too well – it’s just about as far down the spectrum as one could possibly get away from the light of true humility.
Chapter 7 of the same book, covering step 7, a step grounded in humility whereby one humbly commences to ask God (however s/he understands God) to begin to remove these “defects of character” fleshed out from steps 4 and 5. It goes on to talk about character-building as being something alcoholics, or simply people in general, don’t appear to put much value on, seeming to imply that we all should. However well-intentioned this idea may be, it is also misguiding.
Right-Sizing Character Development
Profoundly insightful and helpful in so many other areas, here the book seems to jump on the world’s bandwagon to imply that people should endeavor to cultivate positive or socially acceptable character qualities and traits. The thing is though, alcoholic or not, human beings already put far too much attention, emphasis and energy on crafting and honing the characters we play in this human drama we call “life.”
Why is that problematic? Because we inevitably go on to lose sight of who we really are behind those characters, underneath the masks we make. We forget the spiritual being that humility reveals quite naturally, without us having to “do” anything. That is a human problem, not an alcoholic problem.
Character-building itself is ultimately a problem, not a solution. Whether we choose to develop good or bad, positive or negative, or socially acceptable or unacceptable character qualities is not the real, core issue. That we do not value simple Self-Awareness over clothing and makeup and nice gadgets, over success, prestigious careers, fancy dress and looking good, playing the part, being ahead of the Jones’s… all these are valueless next to, or without, Self-Awareness – the one thing that brings true, authentic, unshakable peace and contentment.
The ego is delighted when our focus is on crafting, editing and upgrading our characters – of that we can be certain. And it couldn’t care a less whether they are “good” or “bad” changes, as long as we are imagining ourselves as something else; going on to make ourselves into something other than the wondrous spiritual beings we are already created to be – limitless, ego-less, divinely inspired, spiritual beings. We can see all this expressed in the identity crisis humanity appears to be in, evidenced by the present spike in identity politics and the plethora of new, special gender identifiers debuting on the global scene. Do we actually believe that is all just a natural evolution for humanity, a “natural progression?” Humanity today is obsessed if not utterly lost in the empty pursuit of character-building and persona(l) development, grasping for anything we can find as yet another escape (i.e. yet another addiction). The ego just loves it when our focus is fixed on terminal uniqueness… absolutely loves it.
Anxiety, Depression and Misplaced Reliance
How can we not but eventually lose awareness and connection with what and who we really are when we incorporate endless character traits over time, compiling them into our ‘lead’ characters. And this process begins to happen very early on in the human experience, wholly supported by the world encouraging us to continue doing so – to go all-in on character-building and make-believe. It’s what the whole marketing industry is made to support. Yet, the main character we each build for our self to best fit into a constantly shifting, changing world, no matter how advanced we become in the craft of character-building, ultimately is just too fragile and unreliable on its own power (or lack of it) for the heavy reliance we put on it to perform.
That is why fear, anxiety and depression can become such paralyzing handicaps in the human experience. We “build our houses on sand.” There is nothing constant or ‘solid’ supporting the self-images we conjure up and manifest; only our own thoughts and imaginations.
Such a vast amount of time and mental energy we spend, then, strengthening and reinforcing our character(s) over a lifetime, constantly propping and shoring it up here and there. Yet all the while it remains fundamentally unreal… merely a character, a persona (Latin for ‘mask’), a self-made, imagined version of our Self. Having all but forgotten that Self, who we really are spiritually – our Self as God created us – we rely on these characters we’ve made… and far too heavily. Having invested magnitudes of belief in them to utterly convincing ourselves these characters are ‘who we are,’ we come to expect far too much from them.
How could they not fall short? How could they not fail us?
People can have loads of belief in God, in a Creator, in a Higher Power, and yet still be paralyzed with fear, because a “working” faith, or any kind of authentic, intimate, co-creative relationship with God is wholly absent because they have become so self-reliant on the character they’ve made. On one hand they “believe in God,” believing too that their belief or faith is deep and unshakable, while on the other hand, they are completely unaware (or in denial), they are totally playing God. THAT, my friends, right there, is the ingenuity of ego at play.
Left to itself, or unmonitored, the ego gets more and more of our time and attention as we develop, often until “who we really are” spiritually is eventually pushed out of Awareness altogether. We could look at this as much like a hijacking of the mind, but it’s more like a foreign occupation by the ego thought system. This is something, too, that we all can see projected and reflected out in the world as well.
If we were to look up close and personal at the whole process of human and especially childhood development, the character adjustments we conjure up are most often developed as a defense against the world that we perceive ourselves in at any given time. Many of the personality traits we manifest – our edits – are made and added to our overall characters out of conditioning, made in order to gain something we want, or to prevent or avoid some form of pain. It’s not hard to see then how a marketing industry can have a very strong influence on we as individuals we go on to mold and shape our character-selves.
Humility is a Big Part HOW
Now when it comes to God – belief in God and reliance upon God are two entirely different things. They will result in two entirely different relationships with our Creator. One is passive, belief, and the other is active, reliance. Reliance is where one trusts and depends upon a prevailing, intervening Divine Guidance or Direction, most often intuitively-received within a humble, open, willing mind. This is the mind’s natural restful and peaceful state. And this is how it works – there is a Divine Providence to it all, a sense that all is okay; nothing is needed or lacking.
Belief, on the other hand, well…we can believe in God “til the cows come home” and all the while still play God, remaining wholly self-reliant and never asking for Help, except maybe when we’ve blown things up again in some way. “Please help me out of this mess I’ve gotten myself into,” is as far as many religious, devout people, believers, ever get toward any ‘active’ relationship with God. It is more part of their character that they have a relationship with God than there being any from of genuine relationship.
Then, of course, the ego would try to seduce us into believing we can have our cake and eat it too – that we can feel close to God by believing in God, but when it comes to managing worldly affairs, well, then we should be as self-reliant as possible – more accurately, ego-reliant – which is really at the heart of all of this. The ego is a usurper, both of our minds and ultimately of our Divine Creator. We come to see this fully and clearly only when we are willing, finally, to really See.
And while here, let us be crystal clear on this – an intimate, fruitful, spiritual relationship with our Creator is available to each and every one of us here, now and always. We are never, ever alone, accept by our own imagined isolation, which is the result of ignoring Guidance, or conditioning oneself to be deaf and blind to It, opting instead for self-reliance.
WHO Do I Want To Be?
Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions, chapter 7, goes on to say a couple other key ideas about humility, aimed at the practicing alcoholic but again, can also apply to anyone. First, it states that, despite having a belief in God, or not, “the basic ingredient of all humility, the desire to seek and do God’s Will, was missing.” This, right here, is really where the rubber meets the road, both for the individual and for humanity as a whole. Without cultivating the humility to seek and do the Will of our Creator, by default we humans are choosing to believe that we have a will, not only separate and apart from, but also in opposition to, God’s Will. Now think about that. Seriously.
There is one character that stands out in all our religious tomes and traditions that fits that rebellious, autonomous attitude to a tee. We must ask ourselves with rigorous honesty, is that who we want to model ourselves after? Is that the character I would make for myself? That is the character we are molding ourselves from, and that is the self-image we are relying on in our demand for autonomy, independence and self-reliance. And that, also, is the ego thought system, just given a more popular character from our religious books, no more “real” than any other character, however.
The other key point stated in chapter 7, one we will end this post with, is that “the chief activator of our defects (of character) has been self-centered fear.” What this book does not go into, being beyond its scope, is that the reason self-centered fear is at the heart of all our human troubles (not just the alcoholic’s), why it’s so paralyzing and so destructive, is because we put our reliance upon a fabricated, made-up version of our Self; i.e. on the character(s) we have made.
Behind the curtain so to speak, however, there is no self at the center of a thought system rooted in the ego upon which to place our dependence and reliance! There is nothing there! We need not spend lifetimes of needless research to finally discover this universal truth. There is only emptiness; only an illusion of self at the center of the ego-based thought system; an imagined, conjured up self-image that simply does not exist in Reality. That is why we fear. Fear of anything in this world is ultimately rooted in and caused by misplaced self-reliance; indirectly a form of denial of God as the Source and true Center of our one true Identity.
Wrapping Up on Humility 🙏🏽
If God is not acknowledged at the center, only emptiness is there, and in that perceived gap or space, we will attempt to play God and fill the emptiness with our own made-up character – the ego – the thought and subsequent thought system of a separate, different, unique, special, terminally unique character-self that simply cannot and does not exist. Whether we’ve ascribed good or bad, positive or negative, socially acceptable or unacceptable attributes matters not one iota. What is false, is false.
Therefore… true humility does not seek to just focus on what we perceive and socially accept as “good” human character building. Rather, true humility has no interest in building characters at all. Humility is rooted in true Identity only, and our true Identity is spiritual in nature – period. Humility says, “I am as God created me; not a self I have made, nor can I create my Self, alone. I am a spiritual being; the extension of God; the extension of Love. This is who and what I really am, and who I forever remain.” This is true humility – knowing oneself, “who we really are,” in relation to God.
From this co-creative state of mind, then our “sincere attempt to become what we could be” is very simple – it’s all about deepening this relationship with God, which is to naturally deepen our Self-Awareness, deepening and extending our relationship with God; with Love. True humility cannot but result in a life of overflowing peace, joy and love, and that is precisely why humility is priceless.
Humility is not just the antidote to ego, but is the absence of ego. And that is why the ego would have us avoid ever questioning or exploring humility altogether, because humility results in the ego’s end; in our absolute and total freedom from it – the most ancient of all human addictions, finally broken, powerless and dissolved away.
The ego does not understand humility, mistaking it for self-debasement. Humility consists of accepting your role in salvation and in taking no other.” ~ A Course in Miracles
May this serve you wonderfully well on your journey!