In understanding why humility is important in recovery, let’s first take a look at the word’s meaning. Humility is defined as, “Freedom from pride or arrogance.” Note the word freedom; pride and arrogance are a prison that isolates us from each other and from God.
Humility is also defined as, “The state of being humble.” The words humility and humble both have their root in the Latin word humilis, which means low; the Latin word humus, meaning earth, is also similar in origin. Thus, when we are humble, we are not proud or haughty, but instead low, or close to the earth. Being humble is a way of being grounded.
Humility is generally a state we choose for ourselves, as opposed to humiliation, which means, “feeling ashamed or foolish.” Humiliation, which also comes from the Latin root humilis, is different from humility because it carries the weight of shame. Humiliation is a state none of us would willingly choose.
Since every person with an addiction is essentially “an egomaniac with low self-esteem,” we typically feel we’re the best of the best – the greatest gift humanity has ever known – as well as the worst of the worst – the lousiest human being in the world – at various times. Both of these sentiments are signs of an outsized ego.
The first job of recovery is ego-deflation. When we truly begin to understand humility, we understand we’re no better and no worse than any other person; we are simply one of many. Each of us has gifts worthy of nurturing, and each of us is a flawed human being. When we understand this, we feel compassion for all our fellow travelers on planet Earth.
Only then do we begin to grow spiritually. Remember that addiction is a physical, mental, and spiritual malady. In nurturing humility, we nurture our spirit. We become able to receive God’s grace. Ironically, it’s from the “low” state of humility that we learn to walk with dignity. Thus, humility is not a form of weakness, but a sign of great strength.