When I used to think of humility I thought of shame, embarrassment, and fear. For me being humble meant admitting that I was wrong, and being wrong was a terrible thing growing up; it meant you could never be right since you had made a mistake. Being humbled meant that someone put you in your place and there was where you stayed. So you didn’t say “I was wrong,” or “my mistake.” No you dug in your heals and stayed right, strong and proud no matter what. Not surprising but living like this led to a lot of anger, fear and stress.
Today I am happy to admit that I am wrong about a ton of stuff. Sometimes I feel like I should never have an opinion about anything because it will turn out to be based on wrong assumptions, wrong facts, or misunderstood information. I am constantly humbled by the amount of information that comes to me after I think I have a pretty good understanding of the situation. I am learning in this humility, to say things like “based on what I know today” or “this is where I’m at right now, that could change.” It isn’t always easy.
I was thinking about humility when I was walking my dogs yesterday. One of the dogs is a mix. We “rescued” her but there was literally a line out the door that had come for that particular puppy. Part of her mix is Pit Bull (I don’t know which varietal specifically). When we knew we were in the market for a baby dog I was working with a rescue organization who called me excitedly to tell me about the litter of pit mixes that had just been dumped at the shelter with mom, they were now safely in a foster home, and did I want to take one of them when they were ready. “I won’t ever own a Pit,” I said self-righteously. “Get online and read about them, then call me back,” said the adoption coordinator.
I trust and admire the rescue organization so I somewhat grudgingly got on my computer and started to research Pits. I was pretty sure that I knew everything I needed to know about a breed that I had said should not be allowed. I was reading up with the notion that I would call back and tell her how unsafe it was to offer these dogs to anyone, let alone a home with other pets and children. This is not an article about why Pits are great dogs, you can do your own research, you can also come over and meet Apricot Tart if you would like. Obviously I was wrong. I called back and humbly said, “yes, please put us on the adoption list, we can’t wait to meet this litter.”
You can see the Pit in her head, which is big, and her heart which is huge (literally and figuratively), she has the laser focus on a tennis ball of a Lab, and the tiny hips of a boxer which will be her undoing. She smiles when she is happy and eats carrots out of my hand like a horse. When I volunteered at the shelter the Pit puppies were the ones that learned the fastest; you can train a six-week puppy to sit with three cookies, true every time. Anyway, I was wrong about the thing with he dog breed. Also about a million other things. I don’t mind, I’ll just keep working on it, trying to be a little more humble when I open my mouth.
The word humility comes from a Latin root meaning “of the earth.” Being of the earth doesn’t sound so bad, and it doesn’t even feel bad. I am a human, I was born of the earth and on the earth and at least for the time I am living in this corporeal body the earth is the only realm I am going to inhabit. So I am learning to walk humbly in my humanity, to remember that when I make a mistake I don’t really have that far to fall, and that the best I can do is be who I am, gently, with wonder and with a willingness to learn.