Greatest of virtues


IF you’ve seen the film The Devil’s Advocate, you will certainly remember Al Pacino as the dark prince, repeatedly describing vanity as his “favorite sin.”

Indeed, it is the greatest evil we could allow into our lives because it is the essential first step in getting into more trouble. Pride is the attitude of the wicked and the cruel. It leads to selfishness, deceit, envy, greed, ignorance and finally, violence. History is filled with famous proud butchers: Napoleon Bonaparte, Hitler, Genghis Khan, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and our very own Ferdinand Marcos. These highly intelligent and highly ambitious people were pinnacles of human pride and brutality. They just didn’t know when to stop, and so their own mortality silenced them and cursed them upon the dark pages of human history forever.

On the flip side of the coin, I believe that humility is the greatest virtue accessible to humanity. Great deeds of love and kindness are products of the most humble figures in history: Siddhārtha Gautama, Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. These are people that millions try to emulate, because they were great in their humility. They did not claim glory or wealth, but their small individual acts of kindness snowballed into global movements for change and unity.

Humility is also the key to successful relationships. It ensures that we do not put ourselves above other people. It keeps our eyes and ears open, giving us a life of perpetual learning. It reminds that everything we are, have and know are fleeting–that we are a fraction of a speck in the grand scheme of the universe.

Proud people just talk loud, exclude everyone from their tiny worlds and never run out of excuses each time they fail. They live in constant fear and distrust. They believe in the illusion of superiority, and waste their time chastising others who they consider inferior. They cannot survive even the smallest form of criticism, and so they shut themselves inside tiny boxes ignorance and fear. They become slaves to wealth and power, always clawing for more. Never having a moment’s rest. Never satisfied. They stop growing and drag everyone else down with them.

Humble people do not speak of their achievements and talents, but celebrate them by using them for others. They know that they live on borrowed time and work with borrowed resources. With this mindset of gratitude, they are able to create lasting good in their circles of influence. With humility comes detachment from material things and temporary successes, giving us freedom to move, discover and understand.

I say these things because I want to be reminded of that slippery slope we are prone to rolling into, as we grow older. That ominous tendency to glorify ourselves comes to haunt us more often as we accomplish more. Celebrating degrees, titles and awards are all well and good for a night. But when we get back into the difficult real world, we are all the same. None of it will matter. We all have to pull our own weight and help those who cannot.

The funny truth is this: The more we learn, the more we realize that we know so little.

As I end my long years formal education, I pray that I will never forget this… as well as those around me.

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One thought on “Greatest of virtues

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