Six Facts With Which to Humble Oneself

Is humility a gift? If so, how could one give it? I am convinced that we need humility like we need food and shelter.

When conflict is an essential element of a collaboration, it can be resolved only through humility. For example, eagles and mice are collaborators in an ecosystem, but the ecosystem requires that eagles kill mice. If the conflict between eagles and mice were resolved through victory by either (i.e. through an end to the killing or an end to the escaping), their ecosystem would be destroyed, and both species would lose, so a different kind of resolution is required, one that accepts lack of both victory and defeat. That kind of resolution is humility.

Human humility stems from awareness of humbling facts. In a way, humbling facts empower us, since we need humility in order to participate in something larger. However, they are not obsolesced by awareness of alternative possibilities; any valid reason to be humble is sufficient. Thus, the same facts arise over and over again in both modern and ancient texts.

Different people are humbled by different facts, so I am offering here a balanced set of six humbling facts, one blog post for each:

  1. Unaided individuals are inadequate in both power and virtue.
  2. Pure reason is inadequate because our language is inadequate and because we fail to recognize our errors.
  3. We need reformers; inherited norms change across generations.
  4. Individual pursuit of measurable extremes (like pleasure, power, security, and prestige) backfires by escalating desire/competition.
  5. Proper rules include some which cannot be disambiguated, thus forcing empathy/exploration.
  6. Role-models are social gadflies, challenging social barriers and norms of empathy.

I gave these facts to my family and friends for Christmas (they did appreciate them), but I was really just passing along a gift I had received myself. I hope posting them online will help you to pass them along to your loved ones as well.

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