On Humility: Are Filipinos humble for the right reasons?

Humility. Pagpapakumbaba in Tagalog. Such a long word for something that is supposed to signify being “humble”.

It has always baffled me the way majority of Pinoys seem to define the word “humility”. The more traditional definition of humility is learning to lower one’s self in society. It means putting others ahead of oneself even if one is actually superior to the people around oneself. Christians often cite Jesus as the ultimate example of humility as He is essentially God Who assumed a frail mortal form just so he could help humanity which He so loved.

humility_filipino

However, as it is with concepts like Christianity and democracy, we often get it wrong and focus only on the superficial instead of its true meaning. Anyway, here’s what I’m actually talking about:

Taking A Backseat To Seniors

In many Pinoy households, children are expressedly forbidden to speak against their elders lest they be called “arrogant”. Also, this applies even in other settings beyond the home such as offices and other workplaces as new or young employees are often discouraged from speaking out or even getting ahead of senior members. There are even those few who seem to think that seniority guarantees a promotion and are often outraged when a younger employee is promoted before them.

Unfortunately, this kind of belief can’t be called true humility as one party, the elders and the seniors namely, have a sense of entitlement over the younger party. Also, one should note that this kind of practice is a self-defeating one as it only ensures stagnation and essentially prevents any kind of progress to take place. If anything, humility should simply be about respecting elders. It should be about letting them have their say and respecting their opinions but it doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them. Remember that “listening” doesn’t necessarily mean “obeying”.

Being Content In Life

Another thing I noticed is that one of the biggest reasons a lot of Pinoy families are poor or suffering is simply because the family in question is content with their lot in life. It doesn’t matter if they’re actually starving and forced to eat what is essentially pigfood because they’re happy to be together in their little home even when the family has more than twenty kids to worry about. It also doesn’t matter if one’s parents or older siblings are working in other countries with professions that are akin to slave labor, are at the mercy of cruel employers or are in danger of being arrested and executed for crimes as long as they make ends meet.

Needless to say, this is probably one of the worst misinterpretations of “humility”. While yes, humility is about finding contentment in life, it does not mean that one should be happy when one actually lives in misery. I think that humility is simply about not being too ambitious and remembering that we are not really “entitled” to anything in life but that we all deserve to live a life of dignity and meaning.

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Post Author: Grimwald

I came that you may know PAIN and have it in abundance…

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15 Comments on "On Humility: Are Filipinos humble for the right reasons?"

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Oh good topic, Grimwald. Allow me please to add to the topic for it is in a way a starting virtue. Through it, other virtues could easily be acquired, and in that sense, it is a beautiful virtue. I think there is something incomplete when Tagalog translate the word simply as ‘pagkukumbaba’. In a world characterized as dog-eat-dog and where the dominant philosophy is to adore one’s ego as a way to self-confidence and subsequently, to advancement, ‘pagkukumbaba’ becomes an anti-thesis. If it is an anti-thesis, then it is no longer a virtue. But, that reveals a fallacy because time… Read more »
benign0
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Something I read in a book I’m in the middle of nowadays… The biggest breakthrough of European culture that set them apart from what were, at the time, the more advanced societies in China, India, and Persia was their embrace of the reality of their own ignorance — that there is so much of and about the world out there that lay outside of their understanding fueled a desire to explore, conquer, and bring within their sphere of influence. So the irony here is it was this inherent humility in European philosophy that fueled their audacious expeditions to every corner… Read more »
marius
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>> The biggest breakthrough of European culture that set them apart from what were, at the time, the more advanced societies in China, India, and Persia was their embrace of the reality of their own ignorance .. Benign0, you are absolutely correct. Sadly, this was a transient period in our history, and we Europeans are back to thinking we know everything. We have certainly come a long way, but as a culture, we’ve completely forgotten that there is always something new to learn. Even the ethos of science is being corrupted by a dumbed-down version of it, propagated by the… Read more »
benign0
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@marius: That’s ok. The scientific ethic still seems to be strong among Europeans (and their derivative societies), so as long as there remains a culture of inquisitiveness and an intellectual humility that recognises that there is still much about to learn, I am sure all is not lost.

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“That’s the potential power that REAL humility could unleash.” I don’t remember now the title of a book I borrowed some time ago. It was about Lee Kwan Yew. There, if my memory serves me, he was often referred to as a humble man. It must be something inculcated by the parents because even when he was already a PM, the mother continued to maintain a small boutique shop under the stairs in a lobby of some old building, and she was there eight hours a day until she couldn’t anymore because of health reason. LKY himself was also characterized… Read more »
57Toro0077755Hayden
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Humility is thinking not more than what you are…accepting you weaknesses; and seeing yourself in Reality. It is the absence of Superiority complex , or Inferiority complex in you. If you accept yourself as you are; there, you can start self improvement. by knowing your strength and weaknesses.

It is not being content of what you are; or letting others make a “door mat” out of you.
Filipinos have a false sense of humility. While our Political Leaders have a false sense of superiority…

d_forsaken
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The greatest friend of truth is Time, her greatest enemy is Prejudice, and her constant companion is Humility.

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I like this.

T
Guest

fuckin’ A, man, fuckin’ A!

Add
Guest

There is a book I would recommend for all:
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Take a look at this link >> http://goo.gl/JF4AjP It’s about said book.

Gagong Lipunan
Guest

Humility is all about accepting your weakness. Because that is what will guide you to improve. To go further. To open one’s eyes to the true reality. To realize that he’s not inherently superior to anything else.

Tendou Souji’s grandma has once said, “Only those who know weakness will be truly able to become stronger.”

Alex
Guest

*SIGH*..welcome to the Philippines..Mabuhay ang utak at ugaling Pilipino..now and forevermore.

Campaigning to change or improve the Filipino mentality is like believing in fairy tales.

Alex
Guest
“Taking A Backseat To Seniors In many Pinoy households, children are expressedly forbidden to speak against their elders lest they be called “arrogant”. Also, this applies even in other settings beyond the home such as offices and other workplaces as new or young employees are often discouraged from speaking out or even getting ahead of senior members. There are even those few who seem to think that seniority guarantees a promotion and are often outraged when a younger employee is promoted before them.” >> This really rings true espcially in public offices/public schools. There are even no “open door policy”… Read more »
aeta
Guest

Filipinos are too self-serving (makasarili) and aristocratic (hambog) to be humble. Any sign of humility on our part is just pretentious.

piesquare
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Grimwald

Using “the reason” and “is because” in one sentence, is redundant. This is very common in the Philippines as it is in the US but not in the UK. If you use “the reason..” follow it with “is that”….