The Power of Humility:
Choosing Peace over Conflict
STILLNESS IN THE STORM
By Barbara Harris Whitfield and Charles L. Whitfield / December 11th, 2020
Taken from its origin humus, meaning earthly, the general dictionary definition of humble is twofold: (1) not proud or arrogant; modest; and (2) meek; submissive; low in rank or conditions. It is in part on this first definition that we have focused and expanded.
When we finally become tired of living in conflict, here is one path to live ─ co-committed with ourselves, others and God to reach Unity. Humility is the key energy to help us achieve this flow. Humility is the energy that moves us up the above map.
CHARACTERISTICS OF HUMILITY
We believe there are at least twelve key characteristics or traits of humility. These include
(2) an attitude of “don’t know,”
(5) a childlike nature,
(11) detachment and
(12) letting go—
Understanding and practicing all of these lead to inner peace. Each of the following characteristics and traits is an important part of the power of humility.
We begin to define humility as being open to learning more about ourselves, others and God. This openness is perhaps its most basic and key characteristic. Without being open to what is ─ we may miss countless chances to learn, experience and grow. When we have humility, there is no such thing as failure. Each act or experience has something to teach us, even if it doesn’t turn out the way we planned.
The Third Chinese Patriarch of Zen, Seng Ts’an, wrote:
The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.
If you wish to see the truth, then hold no opinions for or against anything. 1
Having an attitude of not knowing the answer to every question or conflict we encounter gives us the chance to let go of always needing to come up with an answer or even be right, which may block our ability to experience inner peace and serenity. This “don’t know” stance is a basic and effective tenet of Buddhist philosophy and practice. By not knowing, we expand our possibilities. We don’t limit ourselves.
A Course in Miracles says:
Let us be still an instant, and forget all things we ever learned,
all thoughts we had and every preconception that we hold
of what things mean and what their purpose is.
Let us remember not our own ideas of what the world is for.
We do not know.
Let every image held of everyone be loosened from our minds and swept away.
The Course continues,
Be innocent of judgment, unaware of any thoughts of evil
or of good that ever crossed your mind of anything. 2
Have you ever thought you already knew the truth about someone or something and found out later that you were wrong? Having humility, including openness to learning more, an attitude of “don’t know,” and being curious about people, places and things, can help us to work through conflicts. Curiosity drives us to see the authenticity of other people. Instead of the old habit of projecting onto others our conflicts and other unfinished business, our curiosity opens us to acceptance instead of prejudice and rejection.
As we look at newborn infants, we are reminded that we are innocent at our core. If God made us, and we are each a part of God, how can we also be sinners (as some religions may claim)? A Course in Miracles suggests that we are not. Rather than being born in “original sin,” The Course says that we are born innocent. We are already and eternally innocent.
While the Course describes various aspects of innocence, it defines it as being the same as having Christ’s vision, which it also calls true perception and right-mindedness. Innocence means that we never see what does not exist (that is, the ego and its world) and always see what does (God and God’s real world). At the core of our being, what we are innocent about or unaware of is our ego and its world of pain.
After reading parts of The Course, we realized that upon entering the dream of the ego’s world, we unknowingly caused our own pain. We were and are innocent, and were simply in a dream. The lion and the lamb lying down together symbolize that strength and innocence are not in conflict, but naturally live in peace. A pure mind knows that innocence is strength. We enter into our innocence each time that we co-create peace with another with whom we may be in conflict. (See Chart Level 2 above)
The Romantic poets, especially William Blake, spoke often of our innocence. In his long poem “Songs of Innocence and Experience,” Blake said that we are innocent and that we can contact our innocence through the child within us. In its workbook lesson 182 The Course says
. . . there is a Child in you who seeks his Father’s house. . . .
This childhood is eternal, with an innocence that will endure forever. 3
To us, this is one of the most moving of the Course’s 365 workbook lessons.
The Course says that whenever we are in conflict, we are in our ego, projecting sin, guilt and shame onto the person(s) with whom we are in conflict. If we see sin and badness in another, we lose the peace of our innocence. If we see any error in them and attack them for it, we hurt ourselves.11 It says that
You cannot know your brother when you attack him.
…You are making him a stranger by misperceiving him, and so you cannot know him. 4
Being spontaneous means living as our Real Selves in this moment of now. Our True Self exists only in the eternal now. As soon as we honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with more ease and joy. Every time we let ourselves go into the past (usually from guilt or shame) or project into the future (usually from fear), we are energizing our ego, which usually causes us conflict and pain. We know that we are in our ego when we are not at peace or bored. In our True Self we not only experience stillness and peace, but also joy and intense aliveness.5
Spirituality is about our relationship with self, others and the God of our understanding. And it is much more. Whereas religion takes us by the hand—and we follow the usually preordained path of those who have gone before us—spirituality is about our own personal path. We do it our own way and in our own time. We form an experiential bond with self, others and God that we may or may not find in religion.
By breaking new ground our journey becomes our goal. This is what The Course calls “The Journey without Distance.” It says:
The Journey to God is merely the reawakening of the Knowledge of where you are always,
and what you are forever.
It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed. 6
Our goal in living our journey is to surrender, including surrendering to the Moment of Now we are in. Surrender is not weakness. It is strength. A person who has surrendered has spiritual power. In this surrender, there are no longer problems; there are only situations. And if we don’t like the situation, we can choose again.7 As part of humility, spirituality leads to detaching from or letting go of our numerous attachments, resulting in inner peace.
Tolerance involves the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs, preferences or practices of ourselves, others and God. The Buddhist teacher Cheri Huber says, “Suffering is resisting what is.”
If a situation is intolerable and we suffer from it, we have three options:
1) remove ourselves from the situation,
2) change it, or
3) accept it as it is.8
We can be pushed by our pain and suffering and/or be pulled by our spiritual vision.
Patience may be one of our hardest lessons to attain. When we are in our ego, we want everything right now. Our ego has no patience and as such may lead us to believe we are being mistreated, empty, bored or otherwise in pain. It’s almost humorous to realize the spectrum of emotions we experience when we find ourselves stuck in our ego. All we need do is slide over into patience and, if we struggle with patience, practice tolerance in our struggle.
An effective way out of pain from being in conflict with a person, place or thing is to use prayer. When we are not at peace, we can remember that we are in our ego. In our prayer we simply ask for help and then surrender to the God of our understanding. On a humorous note, we can consider the prayer for patience: “Lord give me patience, and give it to me now!”
Humility breeds integrity and vice versa. They support and feed one another in a positive way. Integrity means consistent realness and wholeness. Integrity is one of the most important and oft-cited of virtue terms. It is also puzzling. For example, while it is sometimes used instead of “moral,” we also at times distinguish acting morally from acting with integrity. We believe that humility leads to integrity. And people with true integrity have humility at their base and actions.
What a conflicted world may need now is integrity—in ourselves, in our relationships, and in our private and political systems. The more we incorporate humility in our interaction and intra-actions (that is, our inner life), the more we move up the Four Levels that we describe in this book, and the more integrity becomes an active part of our being. Why? Because integrity means we are whole, we are working from our authentic selves, who God made us to be, and at the same time we are wholly taking in the people and the world around us.
Detachment involves withdrawing our emotional attachment to a person, place, thing or outcome of any situation—including our conflicts. It involves releasing our attachment or connection. Detachment is sometimes mistakenly interpreted to mean “to not care about,” but the word actually means “to separate from.” It requires a willingness to let go and allow others to take responsibility for their own lives. This is especially difficult for the “rescuer” in a Level 1 triangle (explained in Chapter 4 of The Power of Humility), who feels driven to jump in and help or “fix” the “victim’s” plight. If rescuers do not learn to detach, they often become the victims.
Detachment is a keystone skill in recovery for members of the Twelve Step fellowship of Al-Anon. Many of the principles of Buddhism and related paths illustrate similarities with Al-Anon’s view of detachment. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism include:
Life involves suffering.
Attachment, desire, selfish craving or clinging of our ego causes our suffering.
Detachment is the cure for suffering.
Detachment can follow an eightfold path.9
This eightfold path includes right association (that is, with people who have positive attitudes and clarity). It also involves several key principles and spiritual practices that embrace integrity and meditation.10
Letting go is both an inner life process and an event. When we can remember, it is also often a series of continuous events. We work in our recovery process to let go of our accumulated baggage from past traumas, including how our ego has beaten us up. Letting go is in large part about letting go of our ego. When we let go of our ego, being humble becomes easier.
When we are whole, when we are living as our True Self, we can help the people we love by being present with them and loving them unconditionally. But we can’t fix anyone. We surrender our ego’s need to control this reality that we share with our loved ones and move into the larger reality, where our inner life and the light of unconditional love work together. As we move into balance, our relationships move into balance.
As we give everyone around us the space to be who they are, which also involves unconditional love, we give ourselves the same space. One of the rules of the Universe becomes so obvious: We treat others as we want to be treated, and then everything we give out comes back.
Having summarized the twelve characteristics of being humble, we will now describe some further principles of humility in life.
Gaining humility is a major milestone. It usually signifies a life transformation in that the person flows more with life, functions better, and tends to be at a lower risk of falling back into Level 1 functioning and pain. For all concerned, being “humble” is thus positive and a great strength; it is not a weakness.
As we let go and watch our relationships transform, transcend or dissolve, we not only recognize all the characteristics of humility playing out in us and our loved ones—gratitude moves in and possibly even takes over as an underlying continual attitude or mood.
When the stressful pressure of conflicted and painful relationships is released, something needs to take its place. (The Universe seems to fill in a vacuum.) And that something is peace and gratitude. We feel better. Our ego isn’t running our inner life anymore.
Writer Roy Whenary said: “The story of life, of humanity, of the universe, is vast in terms of what we know, or what we can ever understand. Death comes, like birth, and there is nothing we can do about it. Strutting and fretting our brief hour upon the stage of life is really quite meaningless. In stepping back and seeing the play from the perspective of one’s true nature, compassion arises for all. Humility becomes one’s natural clothing. There is no one, no person, no doer, no diver, yet all is blissful when the mind with all its knowledge, memory and emotional residues stands back and lets go of its hold on life.” 11
In the process of humility we work through a cycle early in our lives from becoming ego-attached or “somebody special,” to then becoming ego-detached or “nobody special.” In Grist for the Mill, spiritual teachers Ram Dass and Stephen Levine write:
“We are in training to be nobody special. It is in that nobody- specialness that we can be anybody. The fatigue, the neurosis, the anxiety, the fear, all come from identifying with the somebody-ness. But you have to start somewhere. It does seem that you have to be somebody before you can be nobody. If you started out being nobody at the beginning of this incarnation, you probably wouldn’t have made it this far. . . . It’s that force of somebody-ness that develops the social and physical survival mechanisms. It’s only now, having evolved to this point that we learn to put that somebody-ness, that whole survival kit, which we called the ego, into perspective.
“At first you really ‘think’ you’ve lost something. It’s a while before you can appreciate the peace that comes from the simplicity of no-mind, of just emptiness, of not having to be somebody all the time. . . . You spent the first half of your life becoming somebody. Now you can work on becoming nobody, which is really somebody. For when you become nobody there is no tension, no pretense, no one trying to be anyone or anything, and the natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed—the natural state of the mind is pure love . . . pure awareness. Can you imagine when you become that place you’ve only touched through your meditations? . . . You’ve cleared away all of the mind trips that kept you being who you thought you were. . . . You experience the exquisiteness of being in love with everybody and not having to do anything about it. Because you’ve developed compassion. The compassion is to let people be as they need to be without coming on to them. The only time you come on to people is when their actions are limiting the opportunities for other human beings to be free.” 12
In a society where everybody has to be somebody special, what a joy it can be to walk along and be nobody special. It is freeing, peaceful and serene. We learn to listen and hear. And where we are when we are nobody special is in the heart of our True Self. Our True Self is energized when we are no longer using our energy to be special.
Twelve Step fellowships also suggest being nobody special by their principle of anonymity. Their Twelfth Tradition says, “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”
In our new book Dragon Energy: Myth and Reality, we include Humility as number 13 among the 17 Characteristics of Dragon Energy. That book is not about Dragons and fantasy. It is about becoming our own Hero on our personal Hero Journey. We say “Humility is the willingness to continue learning our whole lives. Being humble is that state of being open to learning about self, others and God. A key way to getting Dragon Energy is to continually let go of our ego and live from and as our Real Self. In this focused awareness and practice we take responsibility to avoid ego attachment and can avoid the pitfalls of ego inflation and connect with God again here in this reality. In this state of humility and second innocence, we can experience whatever comes.” 13
As the Hopi Elders wrote:
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the Leader.
This could be a good time!…
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. 14
Translation by Richard B. Clarke of the Hsin Hsin Ming. The Couch House Press Toronto, Canada1973
Foundation for Inner Peace, A Course in Miracles (New York: Viking 1996) 648t, 12
Ibid., 41t, 7:1.
Foundation for Inner Peace, A Course in Miracles (New York: Viking 1996)
Ibid., A Course in Miracles (ACIM)
E. Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment (Novato, CA: New World Library, 1999)
Smith H The Religions of Man Harper & Row, NY, 1958
10) Takewchi Yoshinori, Buddhist Spirituality Crossroads, NY, NY p.4, 59, 75, 305
11) R. Whenary, The Texture of Being (Lotus Harmony Publishing, Tomes, UK 2000)
Ram Dass and S. Levine, Grist for the Mill (Santa Cruz,
CA: Unity Press, 1996)
Whitfield CL, Whitfield B Dragon Energy: Myth and Reality. Muse House Press, Atlanta
Whitfield C & B, Parks R, Prevatt J: The Power of Humility : Choosing Peace Over Conflict in Relationship.s Health Communications Inc Deerfield Bch, FL 2006