On Humility


image from Gary on flickr

I am 100% sure that you are wrong, but I’m humble about it.

Does that phrase strike you as a bit contradictory? It does me. But that’s how many faith leaders would have us think. We are commanded to be humble. But we are also told we must be 100% sure of what we believe.

So when we meet someone who believes differently we have no response but, ‘You’re wrong, I’m right, but at least I’m humble.’

I would suggest that there is a better way to handle differences in beliefs, and it starts with an honest embrace of our own uncertainty.

Complete assurance of any fact is philosophically suspect. Even the famous ‘I think, therefore I am’ has its holes. And to be 100% certain of invisible matters of faith is, frankly, impossible. Even the most devout believers admit that belief takes ‘a leap of faith.’

So instead of brandishing our impossible certainty as a shield, why not offer our honest uncertainty as an olive branch? If I embrace my natural uncertainty and say that I am, perhaps, 90% or 95% certain of my beliefs, this leaves room for the beliefs of others. “Well, I confidently believe something else,” I can say to someone who thinks differently than me, “but I also think there is a chance that you are right.”

Embracing our uncertainty is the root of true humility. And this sort of humility will bloom with honest, respectful dialogue across the many boundaries of belief in our world.