Cultivating Skillful Means

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Humility — the antidote to pride

In what ways does humility have positive connotations in your life — in your family, at work, in the community? How do you think humility impacts ethical behavior?

The Dalai Lama relates the importance of humility in Tibetan society:

Both our culture and peoples' basic admiration of humility provided a climate in which it flourished, while ambition (to be differentiated from the entirely appropriate aspiration to succeed in wholesome tasks) was seen as a quality which leads all too easily to self-centered thinking. Ethics for the New Millennium

Do you think of humility as a weakness? Do you think that others would view your humility as a lack of strength?

In Western culture, particularly in professional life, humility can be mistaken for weakness rather than as evidence of inner strength.

Just as confidence is distinguished from arrogance or conceit, so too genuine humility should be seen as a form of constraint and not a lack of confidence.

Do you value self-confidence? What is the difference between confidence and arrogance?

Do you think that humility becomes less important in modern society, with its greater technological and material "success"?

In contemporary life, humility is more important than ever. The more successful we humans become, both as individuals and as a family through our development of science and technology, the more essential it becomes to preserve humility. For the greater our temporal achievements, the more vulnerable we become to pride and arrogance. Ethics for the New Millennium

Do you think that the advice to guard against conceit suggests we not focus on the value of what we do?

On the contrary.

Lack of a proper recognition of one's own value is always harmful and can lead to a state of mental, emotional, and spiritual paralysis. Ethics for the New Millennium

A useful method for cultivating humility and confidence is to reflect on the model of those who act with self-importance. When you see someone acting arrogantly does it give you insight into the value of humility?

Humility and patience

How are humility and patience interrelated? How do they affect each other?

There is a very close connection between humility and patience. Humility involves having the capacity to take a more confrontational stance, having the capacity to retaliate if you wish, yet deliberately deciding not to do so. That is what I would call genuine humility. I think that true tolerance or patience has a component or element of self-discipline and restraint — the realization that you could have acted otherwise, you could have adopted a more aggressive approach, but decided not to do so.