November 23, 2020

A Lesson in Humility from a Fortune Cookie.

Emily Williams

Lately, I’ve been feeling as though everything I touch turns to crap.

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and needy and full of fear and distrust—as if some great shift occurred and I now occupy a completely different self than the, at times, stubbornly so, assured version I previously resonated with.

Returning to this state of having whatever you’d call the opposite of a Midas touch, I am reminded of how harshly I tend to judge others as well as myself.

When we feel disconnected from our fellow human, when we feel so appalled that others do what they do, believe what they believe, fall short in the many ways we can all fall short, one of the best ways to bridge that gap in understanding is to take accountability for the ways in which we also fall short.

I once got a fortune cookie that read, “The greatest patience is humility.” Rather than throwing it in the recycling with the rest of the dinner remains, I decided to keep it. I even put it in my bedroom in a small shadowbox near my bed.

I had no idea what that fortune meant; it seemed like such an ambiguous statement and, at the time, I couldn’t place any actual relation to my life on it. Yet, I kept it for some inkling that it was an important statement. Humility comes and goes for me; at times I feel so on top of my life that I forget how destructive I am actually capable of being. In those times, I feel so enraged at others. How could they be so selfish? So shortsighted? So emotionally wrapped up?

Then a wave of realization hits me and I begin to turn those insults in on myself. How can I be so selfish? So insecure? So closed off? So reactive?

“The greatest patience is humility.” What does patience even have to do with humility?

Humility is defined as a modest or low view of one’s own importance. In the age of self-esteem and self-love, which are absolutely necessary to survive as well, we have begun to see humility as a roadblock on the path to success, and, at times, this is true, but I have also come to recognize humility as one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves to better our relationships with others.

Humility is patience because it allows us to be compassionate with ourselves and with others when we inevitably encounter what we consider to be a failure. It is true that we are all special and unique and beautiful, but if cultivating these feelings about ourselves comes at the cost of how we view and love others, a dose of humility can bring us right back to the remembrance that we are all unique and special and beautiful, and we all deserve the right to f*ck up, in whatever way we are inclined to, thanks to our own individual blends of trauma and coping mechanisms. Humility can lead to forgiveness, and forgiveness can open the door to healing.

In a world of social media and political conflict, I believe we can all benefit from a little more humility, and a little more patience with each other’s perceived shortcomings.

Perhaps all that is needed to turn this ship around is simply to keep moving forward with a little more consideration and understanding for how others’ journeys are going.

Acting out of this space of empathy very well might bring the transformation we crave.


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