Sometimes I say to couples that I'm doing relationship counselling with, "Where there is humility, there is hope." This is is usually responded to with the question, "What do you mean?"
Humility is a multidimensional characteristic, but at its core it is about identity. It is about how a person perceives themselves. A humble person has an appropriately modest view of their own self importance, character and person. From this foundation of humility, they conduct themselves in ways that exemplify value, honour and respect for themselves and others.
One of the characteristics of humility that is particularly relevant in the world of relationships, is the willingness to admit and accept failings, weaknesses and immaturities and take responsibility for them out of love for another human being... and we all have them, plenty of them. If a person can do this, there is hope for their relationship. People fail to do this for many reasons. Here are some:
- They don't feel safe enough in relationships to be vulnerable about weakness and error. They fear that if they admit to a fault, they will be further criticised and attacked (and this has probably happened to them).
- No one has challenged them in this area, and they are deluded into thinking that they are better than they actually are (ouch!).
- They have gotten into a habit of externalising the 'dark' or 'broken' parts of themselves and subsequently put them on other people as scapegoats (limiting maturity in themselves)
- They withdraw from relationship as soon as they feel threatened.
Interestingly, one of the top 5 most watched TED Talks is one called The Power of Vulnerability by a research professor called Brene Brown. Brene talks bravely about her personal journey of becoming more vulnerable in her life. Her journey really begins in the midst an emotional breakdown, an experience that humbled her and provoked her to practice vulnerability with others. Whilst we don't want to go to the other extreme and get into over-sharing, it is healthy and humble to develop an authentic vulnerability in the context of safe relationships. When couples can practice communication that is safe, non-threatening and non- critical, a culture can be nurtured in the relationship that is conducive to humility, authenticity and vulnerability. Here is hope.
One of the fascinating things about humility, as in the case of Brene Brown, is that it is often birthed in crisis. It grows in the fertile soil of the 'valleys' of life. Crisis can have a purifying effect in our lives, as in it we are often forced to come to grips with the superfluities of life. In the midst of crisis, we often have an opportunity to see where we have built our identities and delusions of self-importance on the shaky ground of things such as money, material objects, lifestyle and status (often the very things that war against our relationships). This is a game-changer.
When we understand that crisis can actually bring out something good, that in the midst of our 'lives' seemingly falling apart, there is something of incredible value going on under the surface. Whilst denial of reality is not an option, In the midst of the cacophony and noise being propagated and propelled throughout the world right now with regards to the coronavirus crisis, understand that there is an opportunity in this time for humility. Where there is humility, there is hope.