Thursday, November 16, 2023

Coexistence without condescension

The difficulty of this post is commensurate with the time it has taken in gestation. My topic, "humility."

Let's start with its opposite, a feeling of superiority. There is a pattern of thought that goes like this: I am superior to another in some way; therefore, I am of more value than than other person. Or, more important than that person. In other words, my superior attribute makes me actually superior.

This is incorrect reasoning in part because we are multi-dimensional beings. Scoring higher on one dimension means little when there are other dimensions where I score lower. In secondary school, I scored higher in academics than others of my peers, yet among the lowest in athletics. This allowed me experience at both ends of the superiority versus inferiority scale.

A brief personal experience to illustrate. Superior performance in my high school was rewarded by the presentation of a school letter, a piece of fabric in the shape of the first letter of the school's name, and in the school's colors. I was granted one of these for my academic performance. When I attended university, I proudly posted the letter in my dorm room. Others would see it and ask, "what was your sport?" The person would inevitably be totally confused when I answered, "academics." Apparently, most schools offer letters only for superior performance in sports. I ended up taking the letter down and putting it in a drawer. I live in a society which worships athletes and tolerates academics, even at a university.

The antidote to this malaise is the challenging attribute of humility.

Returning to this post, after a couple more weeks of gestation and a few servings of humble pie, I notice that the draft began on Armistice Day. This is an important holiday in Canada (where it is called Remembrance Day), where I was born, and is a celebration of coexistence without armed conflict. But that would be another post.

As of today's date, Wikipedia defines humility as "the act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others, or conversely, having a clear perspective and respect for one's place in context." This is a two-part definition, which leads into my purpose of describing it as seen from the two different belief systems or world views with which readers of this blog are by now familiar: those of secular humanists and Latter-day Saints. See the blog post which introduced these, "Contrast without contempt."

[This post was started in 2014! So "today's date" has a different meaning today November 16, 2023. Publishing this as-is now (11:43 a.m. MST)]


  1. Indeed, the definition of humility offered here does not appear in the linked-to article, but I'm intrigued by the idea of humility meaning having a clear perspective.

  2. Wow--this was indeed a very long gestation period for this article! 9 years!! I am glad you finished it.