Modesty is always the way, since it does not seek aggrandizement but rather simplicity and union with others. It embodies a practical and universal wisdom.
Modesty doesn’t get a good press. It is a virtue, of course, but is it really necessary to live better or be happier? More than one self-help book says no, and even ventures to affirm the opposite modesty is an impediment to happiness because it constrains who we are or can be.
He goes to say that, to look good, we wear a suit several sizes smaller than we need and, in the end, it is our body that adapts to it. We belittle ourselves with modesty.
In another book it is said that modesty crowns the lives of those who have everything wealth, beauty, success and since they cannot lack anything, they also have modesty. Without it, the perfection of their lives would be less apparent and our appreciation for these people less.
But if our life does not have that brightness, modesty stops being an ornament to become a statement.
In another part, in short, I have read that modesty is the worst vital strategy that we can choose because, by underestimating ourselves, we abandon or do not undertake the search for what can enhance our life.
In some way, said the author, we link ourselves to the image we project and if it is humble, we will be humble, while if we see ourselves as successful people, we will look for a way to be successful people.
IS MODESTY NECESSARY IN THESE TIMES?
Given the above, it seems that modesty is an outdated, ancient virtue that can teach us little or nothing to those of us who live in these early years of the 21st century.
And yet it is clear that something positive must be when so many great men have vindicated it in the past.
It is even possible to wonder, as economic and social specialists and some political leaders have done, if it has not been the lack of modesty, of moderation on the part of all and especially among the most powerful, one of the causes of the enormous economic crisis that a large part the planet is passing through.
With more modesty, we would have been more realistic in the good years about the possibilities of each one and less prone to vanities.
But we have behaved like nouveau riche, little predisposed to listen to what the Greek-Roman sage Epictetus said against excesses almost two thousand years ago: “Remember that you must conduct yourself in life as in a banquet. Has a dish come to you?? Extend your hand without ambition, all modestly. ”
MODESTY, NEITHER RECKLESSNESS NOR SHYNESS
But it’s no wonder we ignored it. If what is most valued in our society is performance and the feeling of pride in what has been achieved, if everything pushes us to “progress”, what is the point of being modest in the claims and achievements achieved? Isn’t it a fraud, a form of hypocrisy, as so many have said and many more believe?
Or as Aljosha A. Schwarz and Ronald P. Schwppe say in their breviary The Philosophical Medicine Cabinet , if what the community in which we live values most about us, or at least what our bosses or hierarchical superiors appreciate most, are not our opinions. , our moderation or tolerance, but the actions that are considered beneficial, useful, quantifiable – the more quantifiable, the better – why should we give up achievements and, if we do achieve them, why do we have to hide our pride and show our more humble face?
Modesty, in that context, doesn’t seem like a reasonable thing to do. But it may all be a misunderstanding and that we are actually talking about different modesty.
Guided by our utilitarian zeal, we have seen modesty as a means to an end. To the extent that it facilitates it, it is good, and if it makes it difficult, it is bad. Like so many things.
But the great masters never conceived of it that way. For them, modesty was an end in itself. A path to travel and improve our life as a whole, in its most varied facets.
Aristotle placed modesty between the path of recklessness, which respects nothing, and that of shyness, which fears everything.
The modest man, said the wise man, must be careful not to say it and do everything and on all occasions, but he must also avoid mistrusting always and everything.
It is about a modesty that is born from restraint, from the realistic perception of what each one is and from the evidence that there are limits that cannot be exceeded.
It is a modesty that does not depend on the importance we place on ourselves, but on what is really important to each one of us.
Modesty thus conceived constitutes a path of life, a powerful inner force that impels us to act step by step, giving value to each stage, at each moment, with consideration for others and determination to overcome obstacles and setbacks.
We are not facing an ideal, extraordinary modesty, as “virtuous” as impossible, but rather a practical, plausible force, because it starts from a very simple principle, modest in its essence: everything, even the largest companies that we can conceive, can be decomposed into smaller and more affordable items.
Relying on them is how we grow and through them is how some, perhaps the best of us, have reached the highest peaks.
From there, from the top, they have contemplated landscapes that have shaken them and that they have later known how to share. But they have not stayed long in them.
FROM GALICIA TO THE SOUTH POLE
An example was recently given to me by the Galician Chus Lago, the mountaineer who crowned Everest in 1999 without oxygen and reached the South Pole after traveling 1,200 km alone through Antarctica.
A very tough test, which few human beings have dreamed of and fewer have been able to complete, because it requires not only great physical condition, but also enormous mental strength to overcome extreme loneliness, lack of horizons and fear.
I asked him how he had achieved such feats and he replied, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world “I started in the small hills of my land and one thing led to another”.
A small Galician hill and Antarctica or Everest seem to have little to do with each other, however the threads of Chus’s life linked them. Step by step, he was able to face the chimera of reaching that extreme and pure point.
But even when she walked alone on the frozen continent, she was not totally alone, because she did so on the shoulders of all those who had preceded her, the pioneers in the conquest of Antarctica, whom she admired, and the many who had taught her. something throughout his life.
Without others, as modesty helps to understand, there is no human adventure possible and, of course, no success.
FIND YOURSELF IN THE INFINITE WEB OF LIFE
Modesty, in that sense, also has something of an offering to others, of recognition.
The Bengali mystic Ramakrishna created a beautiful image to explain it “Trees laden with fruit bow to the ground if you want to be great, be humble and gentle.”
As much as a person has risen, if only he accesses the fruits of that greatness and does not share them, they will end up rotting.
Modesty thus understood, far from being a drag that takes us to the bottom, lightens us.
It may not help to turn straw into gold, but with it is easier to find our place in the world, to place ourselves in the infinite fabric of life and to be aware of it.
The link we have with all that is alive reminds us of our original modesty as a species, something that we easily forget and that is at the base of the other great crisis that our planet is experiencing the environmental one.
That link is so close that we have it within reach. It is enough to touch the artery of the wrist to feel like members of something extraordinary, that is part of us and that transcends us at the same time.
Through our fingers we feel the heartbeat, to which we are tied from the moment it begins to gallop in the fetus and while we remain alive.
And if we go up the stream of time through that river of life, with the heartbeat as background music, we will see the thousands and thousands of generations that we are heirs to and that have been necessary for each of us to be here, at this precise moment; and of the myriad forms of life that have preceded humans hominids, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, primal marine beings.
All of them share with us or have shared the monotone rhythm of that muscle, until we reached that first living being that needed something similar to a heart to distribute the vital fluid with which we remain connected.
It is a story that has been written, recorded, in the book that we share with all forms of life DNA. In the same way that the history of the entire universe is recorded on our skin.
When we touch it with our fingers, we notice the warm and pleasant touch of the mesh of atoms that compose it: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen directly from the stars, from their collapsed hearts after an eruption of unimaginable energy that he inseminated and continues to inseminate sidereal nebulosities, creating worlds like ours or other unsuspected ones.
In the laws of the Universe, as Albert Einstein said, a spirit immensely superior to that of man is manifested, before which, with our modest powers, we must feel humble.
BEYOND FALSE MODESTY
False modesty feels like a fraud and makes us uncomfortable. If someone lies about their attributes, we believe they are doing it to catch up with us, which they consider lower than theirs, which is still a disguised form of arrogance.
But it is also possible to think that false modesty is like false currency: it is intended to buy something that only we can grant: the acceptance, appreciation or consideration of others.
False modesty is a social simulacrum that highlights the importance of modesty in itself, although it can also be the first step that leads to a heartfelt and fruitful modesty.
5 QUALITIES OF THE MODEST PERSON
Modesty is not incompatible with pride: it simply weaves a delicate balance with it.
And for the same reason it is not a restrictive virtue in itself, but a way to enjoy true wealth.
In his Latin origin, the modest was someone moderate, measured, who did not commit excesses and knew how to restrain himself to show his consideration for others.
Later, as the origin of each one was losing importance and the appearance and wealth of each one gained a reputation in society, negative content was added to the modest, such as someone simple, poor and lacking in resources.
Today, modest and modesty are contradictory terms. Although the noble origin of the word still remains at its root.
Modesty is the sincere verification of the limitations of each one and the relative merits of each one.
As Lao-tzu wrote: “A man on the balls of his feet cannot keep his balance. A man who walks with great strides will not go very far. A man who celebrates will go unnoticed.”
Modesty has nothing to do with undervaluation nor is it against the feeling, so human, of pride in what has been achieved.
The modest person runs away from arrogance or vanity simply because it leads to nothing except unhappiness.
The arrogant one is so aware of himself that he remains ignorant of what is happening around him.
With modesty, a false equality is not begged, as Schopenhauer said.
It is rather the opposite: the different contribution of each one is made evident, but recognizing the value of all, because there is no great merit that has not needed any contribution, no matter how small.
Modesty is a wisdom that is achieved over time and as we decant experiences.
Our sieve is refined and allows us to better differentiate the gold from the straw, the really important from the anecdotal.