Is humility a dirty word? It seems we avoid it, and I think it is important to ask why.

My hunch is that humility and humiliation are closely connected in the minds of many people although they are very different. Humility is gentle; humiliation is aggressive. Humility is often considered a social position of one down. while humiliation is often used to reinforce a superior position. Humility has a generous sharing quality; humiliation is an assault on our dignity.

Humility is more about service than domination. Unfortunately, service carries an association with servility and subservience.  Hierarchical organizations which dominate our society reinforce the idea of superiors and inferiors and our winner-take-all competitive structure creates many situations of loss. It is no wonder that humiliation can become the typical experience of many people.

In an individualistic and aggressive world, humble work is often done by those who are providing others with a stepping stone to success.  Rankism which is abuse based on rank often accompanies humble work. Most if not all of us have experienced the condescension and nasty treatment of someone who “outranks” us and it is not a pleasant experience.

The Benefits Of Humility

Being humble has great benefits. In particular, it enables us to be open to possibility and therefore our own creativity. Wabi-sabi is an ancient and smart Japanese philosophy that values that which is humble. Humble is the quality of life that acknowledges that nothing is permanent. The edge of existence is where life happens.Being humble keeps us in that moment of constant change and becoming, and in doing so makes it possible for us to be a part of the larger journey of life. It keeps us in the ongoing creation of the universe.

Humility and wabi-sabi are the antitheses of aggressive individualism.  They are the opposite of control and status.  There is no veneer or pose to protect in being humble and living wabi-sabi.  Their gifts to us are honesty and authenticity and real relationship and the opportunity to live in our creative selves.

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program of "sensory processing yoga" using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers the Emerging Sensitive Movie Club focused on movies and discussions about living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. Mark Kenski on February 29, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Maria, you’ve explained an important distinction beautifully.

    As an HSP, I know humility and humiliation can get mixed up, and it helps greatly to distinguish between the two. Humility is a core virtue because of the way it supports authenticity and growth. If you are willing to listen to another because you genuinely believe you might learn something from them, instead of viewing everything in life as an ego game, you find that every interaction comes to you bearing gifts.

    As a result, the most fascinating paradox can be seen in people of the greatest achievement are yet deeply humble in the best sense of the term. Why? Because the humility in their approach to life is the reason they became accomplished people! Humility is a willingness to receive as well as give. It is a completion of the personality, not a diminution.

    • Maria on February 29, 2012 at 6:12 am

      Hi Mark,

      It is always nice to meet a fellow HSP. I like your view of ho to perceive an interaction. For someone like myself who has been to school many times and can’t et her nose out of a book, it works for me.

      I also love the humility of accomplished people. It’s the best way I know to stay open so that you can learn. It’s not always easy to do.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  2. Carolyn on August 12, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    Maria, thank you again for sharing the difference between humility and humiliation. My experience with humiliation came from my early childhood that was very painful. Not knowing how to respond to this pain, I built up a wall to protect myself then and over the years. After many years of self-healing, I am often humbled by feelings of gratitude.