Humility (adjectival form: humble) is the quality of being modest or respectful.
The term "humility" comes from the Latin word humilitas, a noun related to the adjective humilis, which may be translated as "humble", but also as "grounded", "from the earth", or "low", since it derives in turns from humus (earth). See the English humus.
Because the concept of humility addresses intrinsic self-worth, it is emphasized in the realm of religious practice and ethics where the notion is often made more precise.
Religious views of humility
In Buddhism, humility is equivalent to a concern of how to be liberated from the sufferings of life and the vexations of the human mind. The ultimate aim is to achieve a state of enlightenment through meditation and other spiritual practices. Humility can also result from achieving the liberation of Nirvana. When one experiences the ultimate Emptiness (Shunyata) and non-self (Anatta), one is free from suffering, vexations, and all illusions of self-deception. Humility, compassion, and wisdom characterize this state of enlightenment.
Catholic texts view humility as annexed to the cardinal virtue of temperance. It is viewed as a potential part of temperance because temperance includes all those virtues that restrain or express the inordinate movements of our desires or appetites.
Humility is defined as, "A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake." St. Bernard defines it as, "A virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself. Jesus Christ is the ultimate definition of Humility."
Humility was a virtue extolled by Saint Francis of Assisi, and this form of Franciscan piety led to the artistic development of the Madonna of humility first used by them for contemplation. The Virgin of humility sits on the ground, or upon a low cushion, unlike the Enthroned Madonna representations. This style of painting spread quickly through Italy and by 1375 examples began to appear in Spain, France and Germany and it became the most popular among the styles of the early Trecento artistic period.
St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century philosopher and theologian in the Scholastic tradition, defines humility similarly as "the virtue of humility" that "consists in keeping oneself within one's own bounds, not reaching out to things above one, but submitting to one's superior" (Summa Contra Gent., bk. IV, ch. lv, tr. Joseph Rickaby).
"True humility" is distinctly different from "false humility" which consists of deprecating one's own sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments for the sake of receiving praise or adulation from others, as personified by the fictional character Uriah Heep created by Charles Dickens. In this context legitimate humility comprises the following behaviors and attitudes:
- Submitting to God and legitimate authority
- Recognizing virtues and talents that others possess, particularly those that surpass one's own, and giving due honor and, when required, obedience
- Recognizing the limits of one's talents, ability, or authority; and, not reaching for what is beyond one's grasp
As illustrated in the person of Moses, who leads the nation of Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and to the “Promised Land”, humility is a sign of Godly strength and purpose, not weakness. Of this great leader, the Bible states, “(For Moses was a man exceeding meek above all men that dwelt upon earth)" (Numbers 12:3).
The vices opposed to humility are: (A) pride (by reason or defect). (B) a too great obsequiousness or abjection of oneself; this would be considered an excess of humility,and could easily be derogatory to one's office or holy character; or it might serve only to pamper pride in others, by unworthy flattery, which would occasion their sins of tyranny, arbitrariness, and arrogance. The virtue of humility may not be practiced in any external way that would occasion vices in others.
Also in 1Peter 2:23, concerning Jesus Christ's behavior in general and submission to unjust torture and execution in particular: "Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him justly."
Reference- BHAGAVAD GITA AS IT IS - By His Divine Grace A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Humility means that one should not be anxious to have the satisfaction of being honored by others. The material conception of life makes us very eager to receive honor from others, but from the point of view of a man in perfect knowledge—who knows that he is not this body—anything, honor or dishonor, pertaining to this body is useless. One should not be hankering after this material deception. People are very anxious to be famous for their religion, and consequently sometimes it is found that without understanding the principles of religion one enters into some group which is not actually following religious principles and then wants to advertise himself as a religious mentor. As for actual advancement in spiritual science, one should have a test to see how far he is progressing. He can judge by these items.
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Hinduism has preached about humility and egoless state through numerous sacred scripts and sages which dates back to 5500–2600 BCE. Hinduism has influenced many originating religions like Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism regarding egoless state and nirvana or mukti.Eknath Easwaran writes that the Gita's subject is "the war within, the struggle for self-mastery that every human being must wage if he or she is to emerge from life victorious", and "The language of battle is often found in the scriptures, for it conveys the strenuous, long, drawn-out campaign we must wage to free ourselves from the tyranny of the ego, the cause of all our suffering and sorrow".
To get in touch with your true self, whether you call that God, Brahman, etc., one has to kill the ego. The Sanskrit word Ahamkara literally translates into The-sound-of-I, or quite simply the sense of the self or ego. When this sound is stilled, you are in touch with your true being.
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In the Qur'an, Arabic words conveying the meaning of "humility" are used, and the very term "Islam" can be interpreted as meaning "surrender (to God), humility” – see S-L-M. Among the specific Arabic words used to convey "humility" are "tawadu' " and "khoshou' ":
"Before thee We sent messengers to many nations, and We afflicted the nations with suffering and adversity, that they call Allah in humility. When the suffering reached them from Us, why then did they not call Allah in humility? On the contrary, their hearts became hardened, and Satan made their sinful acts seem alluring to them." (Al-Anaam 6:42-43)
"Successful indeed are the believers, those who humble themselves in their prayers." (Al-Muminoon 23:1-2). "Has not the time arrived for the believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth which has been revealed to them."(Al-Hadid 57:16)
Many great scholars have spoken of the importance of exercising both humility and confidence.
Humility is a deep aspect of Sikhism preached as Nimrata. According to Sikhism All have to bow in humility before God. The fruit of humility is intuitive peace and pleasure. With Humility they continue to meditate on the Lord, the Treasure of excellence. The God-conscious being is steeped in humility. One whose heart is mercifully blessed with abiding humility. Sikhism deal Humility as begging bowl before the god. Guru Nanak, First Guru Of Sikhism said,
Make contentment your ear-rings, humility your begging bowl, and meditation the ashes you apply to your body.(Page 4,Guru Granth Sahib)
Listening and believing with love and humility in your mind (Page 6,Guru Granth Sahib).
In the realm of humility, the Word is Beauty.(Page 8,Guru Granth Sahib).
Modesty, humility and intuitive understanding are my mother-in-law and father-in-law (Page 152,Guru Granth Sahib).
The spiritual teacher Meher Baba held that humility is one of the foundations of devotional life: "Upon the altar of humility we must offer our prayers to God." Baba also described the power of humility to overcome hostility: "True humility is strength, not weakness. It disarms antagonism and ultimately conquers it." Finally, Baba emphasized the importance of being humble when serving others: "One of the most difficult things to learn is to render service without bossing, without making a fuss about it and without any consciousness of high and low. In the world of spirituality, humility counts at least as much as utility."
Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks states that in Judaism humility is an appreciation of oneself, one's talents, skills, and virtues. It is not meekness or self deprecating thought, but the effacing of oneself to something higher. Humility is not to think lowly of oneself, but to appreciate the self one has received. In recognition of the mysteries and complexities of life, one becomes humbled to the awesomeness one is and what one can achieve. Rabbi Pini Dunner discusses that humility is to place others first; it is to appreciate others' worth as important. In recognizing our worth as people, Rabbi Dunner shows that looking into the zillions of stars in the sky, and in the length and history of time, you and I are insignificant, like dust. Rabbi Dunner states that Moses wrote in the Torah, "And Moses was exceedingly humble, more than any man on the face of the earth." How is it possible to be humble and write you are the most humble? The conclusion is that Moses knew he was humble. It is not in denying your talents and gifts but to recognize them and live up to your worth and something greater. It is in the service to others that is the greatest form of humility. 
Philosophical views of humility
Kant's view of humility has been defined as "that meta-attitude that constitutes the moral agent's proper perspective on himself as a dependent and corrupt but capable and dignified rational agent". Kant's notion of humility is that humility is a virtue, and indeed a central virtue.
- [a wise person] acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: -- he does not wish to display his superiority.
Humility and leadership
Recent research suggests that humility is a quality of certain types of leaders. For example, Jim Collins and his colleagues found that a certain type of leader, whom they term “level 5”, possesses humility and fierce resolve. Humility is being studied as a trait that can enhance leadership effectiveness. The research suggests that humility is multi-dimensional and includes self-understanding and awareness, openness, and perspective taking.
- "Humble" from Merriam-Webster, m-w.com
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- Morris, J. A., Brotheridge, C. M., & Urbanski, J. C. (2005). Bringing humility to leadership: Antecedents and consequences of leader humility. Human Relations, 58, 1323-1350.
- Nielsen, R., Marrone, J. A., & Slay, H. S. (2010). A new look at humility: Exploring the humility concept and its role in socialized charismatic leadership. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 17, 33-43.
- Al-Munajjid, Sheikh Muhammad Saleh. Islam Q&A Website."Different kinds of humility", Islam-qa.com. Retrieved April 5, 2006.
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- Catholic Encyclopedia, newadvent.org
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- Judaism's take on humility (Chabad.org)
- World scripture: Quotes from religious texts about humility, unification.net
- I'm glad that I'm a nobody: A positive psychology of humility, meaning.ca
- Catholic Encyclopedia, newadvent.org