Tagged: “Humility”

May I follow up on my question about humility? It seems to me that the value of humility has waned in the past few centuries. What do you think of this diminishing of the importance of humility in the eyes of the academic thinkers?

I think you are right that the negative view of humility within philosophy has been with us for centuries, with the writings of the Scottish philosopher David Hume and the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. For example, in the late 1800s, Nietzsche stated that those who try to humble themselves are actually trying to exalt the self. The famous philosophers Albert Camus and John Paul Sartre, in post-World War II France, split over the theme of humility. Whereas Camus embraced moral humility, rejected absolutism and violence, and acknowledged human fallibility, Sartre was not convinced (Dresser, 2017). I am not surprised, then, that philosophers such as David Hume have a negative view of forgiveness, which he called “a monkish virtue.”  I wonder what Mr. Hume did when holding resentment toward those who were less than fair to him.

Dresser, S. (2017). How Camus and Sartre split up over the question of how to be free.  Aeon, January 27, https://aeon.co/ideas/how-camus-and-sartre-split-up-over-the-question-of-how-to-be-free

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Do I have to grow in character before I am able to forgive? If so, what character traits do you see as important?

This is one of those chicken-or-the-egg dilemmas. It seems to me that as we forgive, we grow in the moral virtues, particularly of courage (as we decide to move forward), humility (as we try to see the humanity in the one who acted unfairly), and then eventually in love, particularly agape love, or that which is in service to others for their sake. Agape love costs the one who loves; it can be a struggle to offer goodness to another through a broken heart. These three: courage, humility, and agape love, I think, are major fruits of forgiving.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness? 

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How can someone become vulnerable enough to accept the pain caused by another person and to ask for help when needed so that forgiveness becomes possible?

I think the key to this is humility. We have to practice the virtue of humility if we are to admit to ourselves the depth of our pain, to accept that we are hurt, and then to bear that pain. It also takes humility for us to realize that we need help. Asking for help is not dishonorable. We do this when we need medical treatment for a broken bone, for example. Humility, it seems to me, is not emphasized enough in our “get tough” society. Assertiveness has its place, but it is not the only response to moral injury. Humility has a rightful place in accepting one’s suffering, seeking help, and starting the forgiveness process.

For additional information, see What is Forgiveness?

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I hurt someone and now I feel guilty. What are some pointers you can give me to seek forgiveness for what I did?

As you seek forgiveness you can:

  • practice humility, that insight that you are not perfect.
  • You certainly are deserving of respect because all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable.
  • You can apologize and then
  • wait patiently for the other to consider forgiving. Just because you are ready to receive the other’s forgiveness does not mean that the other is on the same timeline.
  • Change the behavior that led to the difficulty.
  • Then go in peace knowing you are doing your best in this.

For additional information, see: Learning to Forgive Others.

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As people start to practice forgiveness, it seems to me that they often develop in humility, too. I am wondering what your view is on this.

Yes, I do see that as people develop in the virtue of forgiveness that they often grow in humility.  Humility is not something to be condemned, as the 19th century philosopher Nietzsche seemed to do.  Humility is not a quality of allowing oneself to become a doormat for others.  Instead, it is a stance of not thinking of oneself as superior, or trying to continually win regarding one’s relationship with others.  Humility is seeing that one is neither superior or inferior to others, but instead that we all have built-in worth.  Forgiveness fosters this idea that all people have worth, including those who have acted unfairly toward the forgiver.  Thus, humility and forgiveness share this common view of all people.

For additional information, see:  Learning to Forgive Others.

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