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The Virtues of Humility - 1

By Matthieu Ricard on September 01, 2014

Humility is sometimes scorned, regarded as a weakness. The writer Ayn Rand proclaims, ‟Discard the protective rags of that vice which you called a virtue: humility.”* Pride, however, the narcissistic exaggeration of the self, closes the door to all personal progress, since in order to learn, you must first think that you don't know. Humility is a forgotten quality of the contemporary world, the theater of seeming. Magazines are constantly giving advice about how to ‟affirm” yourself, ‟make an impression,” ‟be beautiful” — to seem instead of be. This obsession with the favorable image one wants to present is such that we no longer even ask ourselves anymore the question of the groundlessness of seeming, but only how we can appear most positively. However, as La Rochefoucauld wrote, ‟We should gain more by letting the world see what we are than by trying to seem what we are not.”

Most people associate humility with a lack of self-esteem and a lack of confidence in one's own abilities, when they don't associate it with an inferiority complex. They don't recognize the benefits of humility, since if ‟self-importance is the privilege of the fool,” humility is the virtue of one who has taken the measure of all that's left for him to learn and the path he still has to travel. Humble people are not beautiful, intelligent people who take pride in convincing themselves they're ugly and stupid; they are people who don't make much of their ego. Not thinking of themselves as the center of the universe, they open up more easily to others and are especially aware of the interconnection between all beings.

* Rand, A. (1992). Atlas Shrugged. Penguin, p. 970.