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The Centrality of Humility for Social Healing, Part One

By Linden D. McLaughlin, MA, PhD, 3/24/2020


We all experience a range of emotions, perceptions and values as we walk through life. Many things precipitate these experiences and commensurate behaviors. Concepts and ideas are constructed and reconstructed in a dynamic manner in a milieu of societal pathology. This collection of ideas becomes the terrain which shapes our underlying presuppositions upon which perceptions, thoughts and values are erected. For this reason, it is always good and helpful to assess what our individual and societal values actually are, and which ones are most important. Of course, some are constant and unchanging due to the spiritual authority on which they are based. But some values need to be elevated to an even stronger level depending on social needs for any given culture.

I believe the virtue of humility has been neglected more than most and is most needed now. I owe much of my thinking to our CEO of Eva’s Closet, Veronica Young. As eruditely researched and experienced by Young, this virtue has been overlooked and neglected by various societies and cultures, especially western ones. Her acumen for identifying systemic social issues and problems is beyond repute. Young has the ability to take a small vignette, a microcosm of society, and see how it ripple-effects through the larger reaches of society.

For example, as illustrated by Young, humility is notably absent in families and family systems in crisis. Reconciliation, mutual admiration, and relational healing are blocked almost singularly by its absence. Conversely, miraculous healing occurs by its presence.

Therefore, one can see how foundational it is to all other virtues because it coheres all the others into a functional unity. All other virtues, left to themselves, tend to become autonomous silos, existing each for its own sake without the integrative force of humility. Humility prevents these siloed virtues from becoming ends unto themselves. It encourages a networking mindset in order for each one to interact synergistically with the others. The end result is greater than the mere sum of the parts.

Humility takes down the autonomy and independence of each virtue from the others by removing stubborn pride and arrogance. It replaces these qualities with humble listening, eager learning, a receiving spirit and the empowering the voice of others above oneself.

This does not mean that all virtues are necessarily equal in value. There can be a dynamic variability for any collective set of values. Societies and cultures recognize this fluid-like fluctuation and in concert surface those anchor values which transcend limitations of others.

The genius of humility is that it, to use a metaphor, raises all other boats along with itself. By virtue of its cultural power, cautionary judgment results which thus holds back a rush to premature and mere popular, but superficial, values. These could determine a deleterious cultural arc bringing with its cultural fragmentation and attenuation.

True learning is really, really a humble position.

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