Thank You for the Difference between Humility and Humiliation


Humility is  a good foundation for a cooperative endeavor.

Humiliation is just a cruelty executed by those who have turned their sense of powerlessness into an art form of blowfish illusion.

Modesty keeps us from being the target of those “bring-you-down-a-peg-or-two” folks with nothing better to do than spend their time bringing others down a peg or two.

And…what is a “peg”? Is it an implement to measure success or arrogance or social standing?

I know a couple folks who line up their pegs so they reach for the sky. That’s okay with me. I have no compulsion to humiliate them or bring them down any number of pegs.

I try to keep all my pegs in a row (laterally because I have a fear of heights)

I respect a humble person.

Though, I do recognize there is a big fat line between Humility and lack of self. I do not honor the humility coerced by religion or induced by authority.

Nor do I enjoy interacting with folks who turn into a puddle of selflessness if you strike up a conversation—I am not inspired by becoming soaked with their puddleness and walking away feeling like there was nobody there. 

But I find genuinely modest people well rooted in reality, with a balanced sense of self.

People with a healthy sense of humility seem to  know the rules about interacting with others and taking turns on the playground.  I have never seen someone with a dignified level of humility practice humiliating another.

These days we seem to thrive on the humiliation of others. We tune in to reality shows to watch people beg to be loved by a bachelor they never met and compete with each other to get rid of their dignity as fast as a camera can capture it. 

We read tabloids that depict the cellulite of celebrities, wait for politicians to make a public faux pas which we then use to point out their inadequacies.

We love bringing our initial adoration of others down a peg or two.

So why do we adore folks in the first place?

Why do we hang others on pegs that will not support the weight of their humanness?

It’s a little like building a house of cards just so you can knock it down.

I once worked as an art teacher with severely emotionally disturbed children. I watched in sadness as they worked so hard to create a beautiful painting to tear it into shreds upon completion.

Why do we work so hard to put folks on pedestals. Why do we need to create a representation of ourselves, our ideals, or our  own aspirations to tear them into shreds when they get to the top peg?

We seem to love watching humble people grow into arrogance after we hoist them above us so we can remind them that they are not really above us by humiliating them back into humility.

I find this curious and a little disturbing but it is an inspiration to maintain my humility and avoid humiliation.


~ by leakelley on July 28, 2008.

3 Responses to “Thank You for the Difference between Humility and Humiliation”

  1. DID YOU KNOW?: The words “humble” and “humiliate” both originate from the Latin word “humiliare” meaning “to make low” Source:

  2. Thank you so much for your comments on the topic of humility. It’s such a misunderstood virtue. Yet, as countercultural as it might be, I’m of the opinion that we are at are best as people when we are humble and others-oriented.

    Rather than continue my rant here 🙂 I invite you to review my manifesto here:

    Also, if you’re really interested, I’d be honored if you read my book “Speak Softly….”

    Thanks again Lea!

  3. Thank you for taking the time to write about such an interesting topic~!

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