Humility. Humble. Humiliate. Humus. That last word is not the good, golden stuff made from chick peas! (that’s hummus). Humus is the starting place for a discussion on humility. We have talked about this in our services recently at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett. Humus is soil. In English, it usually refers to that rich layer of decomposed leaves and other things that make up dark, nutrient filled soil that all growing plants love to grow in. It’s from the Latin word spelled the same way: humus, the soil, the earth, the ground.
Humility can be said to be knowing where your ground is, knowing where you root your own life, knowing what nurtures your life, what feeds you, what space is yours and what spaces are not yours. We might call someone humble who knows themselves well enough to know their strengths and weaknesses, their gifts and their things to learn. Humble people are confident. They trust in themselves and what they know to be true about themselves, and humble people can extend that kind of trust towards others–trust the known strengths and obvious gifts of others without feeling any loss of their own worth. Humble people practice their own groundedness and don’t feel threatened by others who are doing the same. At the same time, humble people can see when others are out of bounds and have the confidence to speak to that reality as well. Humble people, you see, are very strong. Strong like rocks. Strong like the earth Herself. Humble people are solid.
Humiliation is, then, a gross violation of who people are. Humiliation, again formed from Latin words, implies throwing someone down onto the ground. It strikes me that in order to do that, one has to uproot the other person from their place in the ground in order to throw them down on the ground in front of you. It is the worst sort of violence because it devalues the worth of the other and presumes that one’s own ground space is one in which we can do whatever we choose. That’s the stuff that monsters are made of.