bumbling toward humble

22Jan10

I will admit that the debate I’ve been having in my mind seems younger than my age, but it’s a tempest in a teapot, and where do you go to release these squalls?  The blog, of course!  I have, at this juncture of my life, the welcome dilemma of being friends with people of widely varying world views.  It’s always creeped me out to spend too much time in a place where everyone thinks alike.  I have an unusual past, religiously, that makes me especially suspicious of any demand to toe the party line.  But we, as people, are such truth seekers, and wherever we find ourselves in our own journey, we are looking for a set of precepts to settle on and live out of.  Finding people who share our values is a given in the socialization process.  We concur, we prune, we adjust, we realign, based on information we glean from others.  And then we decide.  Even the most agnostic of us make decisions about how the world is made and what laws govern it… who’s in control and who the enemy is.  And the more confident we become in whatever conclusions we make, it seems that our arrogance grows.

My conundrum is this:  is it possible to have confidence in your beliefs and remain humble?  I wish I had more examples in my life of this picture of grace (and there are examples), but usually the two increase in kind… the more firm the conviction, the more forceful and unyielding a person tends to become.  Whether it’s about politics or food or child-rearing or God… money or art or beauty or media.  I count myself in this number.  When I am undecided, I can have much better conversations, free of the ache to convince or convert.  But I am always intent on deciding, and building a structure to pragmatically choose how to live.  And as soon as I do that, I’ve also chosen against a set of propositions.  These propositions are ones that others are employing, and the mind belittles the other possibilities in its wake.  There is nothing wrong with the process, but it’s the attitude that comes with it that I’m finding so problematic.  None of this is as acute when you’re hanging out with a bunch of people who agree.  The “others” are an abstraction, and the sting of difference is dulled.

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6 Responses to “bumbling toward humble”

  1. 1 thedoublemintlife

    I’ve found that humbleness cannot be manufactured without arrogant results. Rather it comes as a result of a deeper alignment as a creature to our Beginning and End. Then pride has no place, only those pure fruits(love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) given on the day we were sealed remain. Ultimately, our spirits are freed from the judgments of this world and placed at the feet of the judge of our souls where its hard to stand proud. There is certainly joy and relief in this freedom and maybe this is the ‘pride’ you speak of.

    Lovely work, by the way, both the written and the drawn!

  2. 2 aaron

    This is a good topic for discussion.

    There is a line from a Cat Power song…not even a whole line…she says “I wish the best for you”. It rolls around in my head all the time now. I have found it to be a good way of checking my own motives. Am I wishing this person well or do I just want to win?

  3. such good points. i love the motive check, aaron.

  4. 4 sue

    ahhh…. I’ve been rolling this conundrum around in my head recently, though less articulately and more angst-y. thanks for giving it a form, a full thought, a proverbial wall upon which to bounce the unformed agitation i’ve been feeling. i am a paradox unto myself, not liking to be part of Those Who Have Decided, yet feeling as though the world is a wool sweater to which I am allergic when I am undecided.

  5. Hi Gala, this is really interesting! I really appreciate your writing about stuff like this.

    That is a great question (“is it possible to have confidence in your beliefs and remain humble?”). If I were to try to answer it, I’d say it would depend on what the beliefs are. Using religion (the ever-present subject) as an example… I think that if someone believes that their religion is the only one with access to “God” then (in my opinion) it wouldn’t be possible for that person to truly be humble. But, if someone believes that the religion they’ve chosen is only one among MANY equally valid religions, then that person would be humble.

    For me personally, the most humbling feeling comes from acknowledging that I’ve made a mistake. It never comes from feeling like I’ve got things all figured out.

    anyway. I enjoy thinking about stuff like this and could easily get carried away.

    But yeah, I think it’s human to want to be decided about things. I love how you put it: “We concur, we prune, we adjust, we realign, based on information we glean from others. And then we decide.”

    thanks for the good thoughts (as always).

  6. 6 gala bent

    mistake-making… yes! as a parent, boy-oh-boy, you get to experience that one without trying very hard. humble pie.

    i think the thing i’ve been thinking about in my old age (ha!) is how my own conclusions continue to shift, even though i’ve always been sincerely propelled by the desire to know what the universe is made of. i can’t be intellectually honest and accept all suggestions as equally possible, but i want to cultivate a respect for the fact that everyone is, like me, in the process of deciding– about ‘big’ things like religion and ‘small’ things like where or how to shop. the hunger to know can’t be squelched, but i often illustrate to myself the inconceivably large size of everything compared to little old me, in a mere physical sense, and i *have* to be humble enough to admit that my wisdom or knowledge is also micro-sized against the mass of what-could-be and what-is… sometimes that’s terrifying, sometimes blissful.


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