Lessons in Humility

I have always been suspicious of Marianne Williamson’s widely-quoted “call to shine” below.

Our Greatest Fear 

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

But this week it finally clicked. I was talking with a friend who lives everyday from her creativity, and was telling her about something I feel passionately about, but am fearful of following through on lest it puffs up my ego. That I’m not sure I want to start a Twitter account and start talking about it and putting myself out there about this project. Basically, I summarized, I want to be humble, and that feels at odds with doing things I would perhaps be successful at.

She didn’t even blink. “Wow,” she said. “Get over yourself. That’s the most arrogant I’ve heard in a while. I mean, no…. Just no.”

Now, I know when I’m getting good advice and ready to hear it when I don’t feel bruised by such a call-out, but rather, relieved to have had it called out.

She’s absolutely right and what a great lesson to see how sneaky the ego is. It can disguise fear as humility. It can disguise its need to feel important as humility. Who is this “i” that thinks what it does would be so amazing that it would then “struggle to be humble”!?  Who is this ‘i’ that believes people care what she is doing? And, is this thought merely a disguise for the fact that this “i” is scared that following a passion will end up being meaningless? Indeed, is the “i” just scared of finding out she is meaningless?

This last question is the crux of the matter. The person/ego – whatever you like to call it – needs to feel important, needs to feel it has a purpose. It is terrified that it won’t have a purpose – probably because it knows that without purpose it cannot exist – it has no identity to maintain, and so it is not needed. Indeed, by accepting ourselves as purposeless (or being moved simply by something greater than our tiny selves) then the ego withers.

I’m not sure if this is clear, but there is most certainly a relief in setting aside ideas of being important or failing, and of having any purpose or meaning, and instead, just following what my heart seems to be telling me to do for no other reason that it seems to be telling me to do it. The end. It’s quite humbling, and a little embarrassing (to the ego), to see that I really seemed under some spell that 1) my offering is my own and 2) that I matter.

I don’t need to matter. Indeed, ‘mattering’ surely only stands in the way of whatever it is this person can serve best doing – however unimportant or grandiose the ego believes that action in the world to be.

Of Williamson’s words it is this line that is clearest for me:

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

In other words, we simply exist to allow consciousness to express itself through us, so just roll with it and be wide open to let that expression go all the way. That is humility. And with it a clear space opens up to feel immense gratitude. How wonderful that ‘i’ get to be a tiny tiny part of something so incredible and wondrous and unknowable as consciousness, or God, or whatever word you would choose.

I’m going to pin ‘get over yourself’ to my desk as a reminder.

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