How to Be Humble



What is humbleness? How to practice it? If, for example, someone comes to command (to dictate, how I should behave), how I should deal with him? What should I say to him that would be humble, but at the same time let him know that his behavior is not acceptable to me?

Thank you!


—Evelyn, Estonia


Dear Evelyn,

True humility is to be self-forgetful rather than reactive; to respond appropriately and not according to some script of what one is supposed to say or do. To be humble is not to be a doormat. To be humble is to be self-honest, seeing oneself as a vehicle for expressing truth: truth is that which is beneficial, useful, appropriate and guided by soul qualities.

When, therefore, another person criticizes you or demands that you do their bidding or behave according to their demands, the first response is to be calm; even silent. Circumstances vary greatly, of course. At home, you might be able to calmly walk away and say nothing for the time being. But, at work, it may be appropriate to respond verbally. To criticism, you might say simply, “Maybe you are right. I’ll have to think about it. Thank you, I’m sure you want only to help me.” You should, of course, reflect on whether there’s any truth to the criticism and whether you can improve your attitude or behavior but you don’t necessarily have to confess or admit fault to that person.

Other times, there is more at stake. You can, for example, calmly state that you disagree and suggest that perhaps there is a better time to discuss it. Or call in another person who might be helpful to work out your differences. Being truthful includes your stating your views also. The difference is whether you are being defensive; or return accusations against the other person as a response to their accusations against you. Or, holding a grudge; wanting to get even next time around.

Humility means also being impartial even as it regards your own opinions, desires, and self-image. It means being willing to introspect; to make changes; to accept that you have lessons and tests and improvements to make upon yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to discuss or admit such things to a person who only wants to discredit or hurt you. Humility is self-honesty in your relationship to God and your higher Self. If there is a wise and impartial person who only wants what is best for you, that is a great blessing to have their counsel. The inner counsel of a God-realized soul, a true saint or avatar in prayer and meditation, is also a wonderful relationship to have.

Few people have your best interests in mind. Most are thinking of themselves and their own opinions and convenience. Thus humility means keeping a certain distance, mentally and emotionally, from others knowing that each person has a unique path to maturity and Self-realization and that you, too, must find your way to truth, unconditional love, and right action. Thus a life of prayer and meditation is the foundation for true humility. “I am Thy child. Teach me. Discipline me. Guide me to love You as You love me.”

May the Light of the masters be ever your guide,
Nayaswami Hriman