Mother of virtues

Mother Teresa said, “Humility is the mother of all virtues. It is in being humble that our love becomes real, devoted and ardent.” Humility becomes the way of life when one attains spiritual maturity. All the world religions recognise humility as the central virtue needed for spiritual growth. In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna instructs Arjuna, “Be humble, be harmless, have no pretensions.” Prophet Mohammed in Quran states, “Successful indeed are the believers who humble themselves in their prayers and who shun vain conversation.”

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines humility as freedom from pride and arrogance. When we say, ‘in my humble opinion’ it is more often a disguised pride. Humility is not about self-degradation, low self esteem, being timid or feeling inferior. It is not to be confused with submission and fear. On the other hand humility is the source of courage, freedom, compassion, gratefulness and confidence. 

Once George Washington came across a few soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log of wood without success. The corporal was standing by just watching as the men struggled. The commander-in-chief of the army (GW), without revealing his identity, asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping. The corporal replied: “I am the corporal. I give orders.”

Washington said nothing in response. Instead he dismounted his horse and went up, stood near the soldiers. As they tried to lift the wood, he gave them a helping hand. With the additional help, the soldiers were able to complete the task successfully. He quietly mounted his horse and went to the corporal and said, “The next time your men need help, send for the commander-in-chief.”

John Wooden, the basketball great and head coach at the University of California, Los Angeles won ten National championships in a 12-year period as head coach of UCLA, including a record of seven in a row. He wanted his players to have pride (self-satisfaction) in a job well done. He also wanted them to have the humility to recognise that these victories did not make them better than someone else and that there was still plenty of room to improve. He summarised elegantly the virtues one should possess on or off the field, “Talent is God given, be humble; fame is man-given, be thankful; conceit is self-given, be careful.”

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