Chaplain's Corner + Self Honesty
If I were to write a Chaplain's Corner article on humility, I would think that it would not be well received by some. Humility is not exactly a virtue held in high esteem by secular society. Sometimes however an article with a different title but with similar content might capture the interest of the reader. Some months ago I wrote a Chaplain's Corner article with a catchy title: The Arrogance of Power, The Power of Humility, that was well received. Self Honesty, the title of this article, might induce the reader to consider another aspect of humility, self honesty, more thoroughly understand what humility is and be able to apply it to their lives as well.
Humility has not gone unrecognized by contemporary psychological research which findings suggest that humility is multidimensional. The critical factors making up humility include, self understanding, awareness, openness and the ability to see things from different perspectivesi. Thus the title of this short reflection, Self Honesty, is a good summary of these dimensions. Various religious and philosophical traditions have described these elements as well. From the Hindu tradition Mahatma Gandhi once remarked: "It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err." Elsewhere he pointed out, "To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest."ii
The Hebrew Prophet Jeremiah notes our lives should be include self-understanding that will lead us to Godliness. This is especially applicable after suffering grave life tribulations. In his pathetical lamentations on the miseries of the Jewish people following the destruction of Jerusalem and its great temple (587 BC) he writes: "Let us search our ways, and seek, and return to the Lord."(Lam 3: 40) Humility, that is to say true self honesty about oneself can be likened to having acquired an education of great value. This is noted by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn when he writes: "An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility."iii
In the tradition of the Eastern Church attaining honest self-knowledge requires discernment. St. Peter of Damaskos writes: "we need discrimination in all things if we are to know how to act ..." A very effective way to get truthful assessment about oneself is to get feedback from an experienced psycho-spiritual mentor (aka: elder, spiritual father/mother). St. Peter reminds us of the words of St. Antony the Great: "we should seek counsel about everything; and we should consult not just anyone, but those who have the grace of discrimination; for if the person we consult lacks experience, we may both fall into the ditch..."iv
i Nielsen, R., Marrone, J. A., & Slay, H. S. (2010). A new look at humility: Exploring the humility concept and its role in socialized charismatic leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 17, 33-43.
iv Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. I-IV) (1983-1993) Sherrard, P., Palmer, H.E., & Ware, K. (translators). Winchester, MA: Faber & Faber.