When we teach the nature of humility, it inevitably becomes clear that it is not a straightforward lesson that can be taught in one go – it requires that a student focus on several different aspects of their nature before they can come to grasp the nature of this mental state and successfully apply it in their lives. These particular lessons are as follows:
The Reasoning Behind Humility
It’s very easy for us to say “to be a Jedi, one must be humble”. In fact, there’s really nothing simpler than making such a bold declaration as that. It might be true, but before a student can attempt to reach a state of humility, they first need to understand exactly why they need to do so: why must one be humble to be a Jedi? What virtue is there in humility that a Jedi would adopt it? What benefits does it have over other similar states of mind?
The first thing that needs to be emphasised is that humility is designed so that you never take anything for granted. If you perform a particular deed because of an ability or skill you possess, it would be appropriate to acknowledge that capability, but humility is required to ensure that you don’t simply pass over the possible factors that contributed to success – were you helped? Did something in the situation make it easier to find success? What else was involved, in addition to the skill(s) used? If a student simply assumes that they will meet success in every similar scenario to one which they have met successfully, they won’t be inclined to approach it with objective caution, thus acting impulsively, with the arrogant notion that, having succeeded once, they can easily do so again, even if the scenario is different to the one in which they did indeed succeed.
Secondly, humility makes you easier to approach – people are naturally repelled by arrogant people, since such individuals try to make others seem as though they are less than the individual involved, which is hardly appropriate for any Jedi – such impressions make it far harder to do the duties expected of a Jedi. Try solving a diplomatic dispute when both parties find you arrogant and aloof. I guarantee you’ll never manage it. Thus, humility is the only appropriate state of mind for such situations.
Humility also ensures that you maintain a serene and objective state of mind – one who is arrogant cannot maintain objectivity, for they have already reached the assumption that they are better than others – a subjective assumption which only leads to overconfidence (not always justified) and a natural disdain for others. For a Jedi, such behaviour is inappropriate. If you cannot be objective, you act from emotion. When acting from emotion, it is far more likely that your actions will be hasty and impulsive – far more likely, therefore, to have negative consequences compared to an action that is generated through serene but decisive consideration of the circumstances.
Before any student can successfully apply a mindset of humility, they must first come to understand themselves – their capabilities, their strengths, their weaknesses. They also need to come to understand the nature of their own emotions: in order to be humble, you have to restrain the exercise of one’s own ego in every action you take: wherein you perform any action, and do so well; there is the risk of pride becoming an active part of one’s conscious psyche. With pride, there is the potential for arrogance: the state whereby you believe, as a result of your abilities (whether you are correct in this assumption or not) that you are superior to others. They are therefore less than you are – inferior, if you will. This particular state completely contrasts to the objective of the lessons: to achieve a state of humility.
Thus, to stop arrogance, one has to understand it – how it is provoked, how it manifests itself for you as an individual and, finally, the effect it has on other people and how this consequently reflects on you as an individual. Understanding the negative aspects of arrogance, it becomes clear that this must be restrained – the method used to achieve this is, unsurprisingly, adopting a sincere state of humility.
Inevitably, this requires a significant understanding of what one can do and what one can’t do – but this must be ascertained when the mind is clear and objective. If you are in a depressed mood, you’ll be far more likely to find things that you can’t do as opposed to those things you can do. If in an elated, over-enthusiastic state of mind, the opposite holds true. In either case, it would be impossible to reach an accurate assessment of one’s own abilities – hence meaning that your humility cannot be sincere. When you try your hardest and fail, yet act in humility, it is in the knowledge that success was beyond your grasp. When you try and succeed, humility demonstrates that you understand your achievements, but appreciate the possibility of failure and also that there were potential elements within those situations not in your sphere of control – outside influence may have affected the outcome just as much as you yourself did, thus meaning that your achievement was not accomplished by your hand alone.
To comprehend any of this, self-realisation is thoroughly required, since lacking it, strengths and weaknesses cannot truly be understood and thus, nor can the reasoning behind the need for humility, or the circumstances in which it must be exercised. To be controlled, emotions need to be understood. If arrogance is not understood, it cannot be conquered. If humility is not understood, it cannot be exercised.