This is humility. Knowing that we don’t own our ideas, and that we are not good/worthy due to our successes, or bad/unworthy due to our failures–and being okay with it. We are quick to want to dissociate from a mistake, and blame it on someone or something else. But we want to cling to our successes, hoping we can ride that buzz forever, feeling that because I did good, I am good.
“…humility is the gateway to faith. Without it, we rely simply on our own efforts, without recognizing our dependence on God. Without it, we rely simply on our own reason, without opening ourselves up to the possibility of the miraculous. Without it, we cannot fully enter into the world that God has in store for us.” –-James Martin, Jesus, A Pilgrimage
Recently, I told my friend that I was afraid of sharing my “brilliant idea” with another person, because I feared the other person would steal my idea. I knew this wasn’t a very high-minded thought, but it was my thought, non-the-less. I wanted to hold back from putting my idea into the world, for fear that I would not ultimately get credit for it. I wanted to identify myself with the idea. My idea is good, therefore I am good.
My friend said, but why did you want to pursue that idea in the first place? Where did that idea come from? I realized I wanted to pursue the idea because it was something I wanted to see more of in the world, and something I felt that I could learn from, and benefit from in the process of pursuing this idea in a public arena. I wanted help with a personal challenge, and I thought I’d find good company for it.
Yet, somehow, I still didn’t want to share the idea.
Then my friend said, was the idea really yours? Do you own the idea? I had to think about this one. No, I realized. Ideas don’t come out of thin air. I was inspired by an experience, and the idea came to me out of that experience, and many other, past experiences. Those influential experiences involved other people, and so the idea was not my own.
Wow, I thought. So if this idea is not mine, then I can share it, and give it away, because I’m sure I am not the only one thinking about it, anyway. Plus, the only way that I will only benefit from the idea is by sharing it. I can congratulate myself all I want for having the idea, but at the end of the day, that just a stroking of my own ego. It is not helping me to face the challenge that inspired the idea in the first place.
The idea, by the way, is to come together with a group for a meal, and practice mindful eating. To practice being in a group, but also being in our bodies, and getting the utmost nourishment from our food, not only our social interactions. To practice bringing my attention back to my own body, even when in the company of others, when my attention goes outward (and I can look eat a whole plate of food and wonder afterwards, while looking at my empty plate, did I really just eat a whole meal?).
This is humility. Knowing that we don’t own our ideas, and that we are not good/worthy due to our successes, or bad/unworthy due to our failures–and being okay with it. We are quick to want to dissociate from a mistake, and blame it on someone or something else. But we want to cling to our successes, hoping we can ride that buzz forever, feeling that because I did good, I am good. The successes and the failures are shared, shared with other people, shared with the circumstances, shared with the experiences that led up to those moments. And after a failure, or after a success, life keeps going. We cannot ride our successes or failures through the rest of our day, lest we then fail to see and respond to what is happening in real time, around us, even if it is a moment after we just aced an exam.
I think that, whether or not you believe in God, whether or not you are religious, and whichever religion you practice, this quote is still relevant. If God feels like an uneasy topic , you can re-write it like this:
“…humility is the gateway to faith. Without it, we rely simply on our own efforts, without recognizing our dependence on [other beings]. Without it, we rely simply on our own reason, without opening ourselves up to the possibility of the miraculous. Without it, we cannot fully enter into the world that [the universe] has in store for us.” –James Martin
If you want to hear more on related and unrelated by very interesting, “self- development” related topics…
My thoughts here are greatly influenced by Brene Brown, researcher of shame and vulnerability, Research Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and author. You can watch her Ted Talk (over 18 million views) here, and listen to an interview with her on On Being here.
I am also influenced by my enneagram teacher, at least I think of her as a teacher. I won’t share her name here, but I do hope to write more about the enneagram at some point. Check out the book: The Wisdom Of The Ennegram, The Complete Guide to Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson for a good introduction to the topic.
Kevin Kelly’s interview (he is editor of Wired Magazine and much more) on The Tim Ferris Show, this three-part episode.
I am also very inspired by my friend Lily K. Morris, who supported me through this mini crisis of ego I expressed in the post above. She blogs at Waltzing with Wellness, here.