But is this really enough to grasp the whole importance humility plays, or does NOT play in our lives? Is being humble a positive or negative trait?
Humble (v.) and humiliate (v.) sound similar, but humiliate emphasizes shame and the loss of self-respect and usually takes place in public, while humble is a milder term implying a lowering of one’s pride or rank.
So, why and how is this important in a relationship? Consider that what makes us who we are, is our world-view, our opinions, our ways of determining what’s true and what’s not. So how do we determine what is true in a conversation? What we do is we compare what we hear or see with what we already know and see how it is the same or different from our past experience. Also, we check our feelings to see if we like it or not. That is basically how we determine what is true and real and what is not. This is all very well for a 5-year-old, but unacceptable for a healthy fully developed adult. A five-year-old will say that he does not like broccoli because it is yucky. What he does not see is that it is not that broccoli is yucky; in fact, quite the opposite is true. He calls broccoli ”yucky” because he doesn’t like it. He, of course, does not see it that way. He thinks that anyone who likes broccoli has no taste to say the least. This is what we call “ontological arrogance”. Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of reality. Ontological arrogance is the belief that your perspective is privileged, that your way is the only way to interpret a situation. While ontological arrogance is normal and even cute in children, it is much less charming in adults.
In charged situations most of us assume that we see things as they are; that is not so. We actually see things as they appear to us. Check out for yourself. When was the last time that you met an “idiot” who thought exactly like you do? Do you believe people disagree with you because they are “idiots”? Or do you call them “idiots” because they disagree with you? Do you think your spouse is pushing your buttons and wants to make you mad on purpose? Or do you think that because you do not like what they have to say and the way they say it they seem to “push your buttons” on purpose?
The opposite of arrogance is humility. Humility has the root in Latin word humus, meaning ground. Ontological humility, on the other hand, is the acknowledgment that you do not have a special claim on reality or truth, that others have an equally valid perspective deserving respect and consideration. (Hence chapter two in The Relationship Saver about agreeing with your partner.) Acknowledge that there are many ways to look at the world. Some are more practical and ”true” for you than others. Nevertheless, they are only views. They are never objective truths; they are always interpretations, personal maps built by our limited senses passing from our individual and unique filter woven from our past experiences. It never even resembles THE truth. The fact that we agree about anything with anyone is only coincidental and it is always a product of our willingness to agree. It does not make it more real or truthful though. It is easy and natural for us to disagree, to push our truth as the right one. It is sweet to be right and that others see the world as we do. Our arrogance in this respect has no bounds. Ontological humility makes sense intellectually, but it is not the natural attitude of a human being. It requires, at least, the cognitive development of a six-year-old.
Ontological humility does not mean that you have to disregard your own perspective. It is perfectly humble to state that the circumstances are “problematic” as long as you add “for me”. That acknowledges that the same circumstances may not appear problematic “to you”.
There are times when you can “agree to disagree” and at other times you will need to bring the conversation to some agreement. But we’ll talk about that some other time. Stay tuned and try to behave as if you are at least six.
By the way, I saw a great bumper sticker yesterday: “You don’t have to believe everything you think.”