On Humility

Humility – a 14th century word from the Latin humilitas

Humility – a state of being humble

Humility – a modest opinion of one’s self-importance

Humility – demureness, down-to-earthness, humbleness, lowliness, meekness, modesty, submissiveness

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. (C. S. Lewis, novelist)

I claim to be a simple individual liable to err like any other fellow mortal. I own, however, that I have humility enough to confess my errors and to retrace my steps. (Mahatma Gandhi, leader)

Humility and knowledge in poor clothes excel pride and ignorance in costly attire. (William Penn, statesman)

I don’t have a set of tenets, but I live an ethical life. I practice a humility that presupposes there’s a power greater than myself. And I always believe, don’t inflict harm where it’s not necessary. (Michael J. Fox, actor)

If I could I would always work in silence and obscurity, and let my efforts be known by their results. (Emily Brontë, author)

Personally, I rather look forward to a computer program winning the world chess championship. Humanity needs a lesson in humility. (Richard Dawkins, scientist)

I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men. (Lao Tzu, philosopher)

What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself. (Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President)

Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights. (John R. Wooden, college basketball coach)

Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved? (Carl Sagan, scientist)

Enjoy this video with more wisdom from Carl Sagan about humility.

57 thoughts on “On Humility

    • Carrie,
      I know what you mean … thus maybe the reason I didn’t ask to pick a favorite. Given human behavior, I imagine that the world needing more humility is probably a given for much of human time.


  1. Frank, oh you know I’m loving this post. This was one of my words even. I love your choice of quotes. Like Carrie, it’s hard to pick a favorite. They’re all superb shining a light on humility, which can’t be done enough! I enjoyed the Carl Sagan video. It’s quite amazing.


  2. Great subject, Frank! [loved the C.S. video, Cosmos was my favorite show!!!]
    If I may humbly[!] add one more I found that made me laugh:
    “If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you but answer, “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned these alone.” ― Epictetus


  3. What a great post, Frank. I liked the one by Abraham Lincoln. Right now I’m steeped in his wisdom and personality while reading “Team of Rivals.” I think he had healthy form of humility that made it possible for him to accomplish all that he did.


  4. Wonderful…..I love so many of these…Lincoln..So many people I would like to have met…I would have liked to just sit quietly and listen and watch….all of these…such great minds…


  5. Beautiful post, Frank … enjoyed listing to the video and his voice.
    I will give my favorite quite about …. humility.

    “If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.”
    Dag Hammarskjold


  6. I like the Abraham Lincoln quote about how the skunk is its own undoing! My husband has one of John Wooden’s books he reads over and over. It’s on leadership, and Jay quotes Wooden quite often. He was a remarkably humble man with great leadership strength. You’ve given a good list of thoughts worth contemplating, Frank. 🙂


  7. You’ve collected a bunch of prize winners here.
    Too bad so many schools don’t do those “thoughts for the day” or ask kids to memorize sayings anymore – so much to be gained from inspirational words – and exposure to great thinkers


    • Mouse,
      I used to have a saying of the day on the board. Interestingly, students would comment on them, especially when they really like it. …. and I imagine there still are teachers who do that.


  8. I suppose that the words “Leader” and “humility”, together, would be too much to expect. If only those who control us, or try so hard to, could have a large dose of Sagan’s magnificent humility. Got a post coming up which touches on this. 😕


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  10. Well, that’s the first bit of Voltaire I have ever heard/read. Loved the “you are here” – omg…

    Awesome post. Like the other: brilliant.


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