One of the most profound ways of describing a spiritual journey is to say that it is ultimately the dismantling of the ego. This dismantling finally reveals the natural and original qualities of the soul, one of which is the huge, and perhaps unrecognised, power of humility.

In a world where what appears to be true is often false, what appears to be false is often true, what seems like a strength can be a weakness and what is perceived as a weakness is actually a force of power, it is easy to see how the quality of humility could be misunderstood. Humility is a huge power. It is based on self-respect. When someone is truly humble, they radiate a beautiful, gentle quality and strength. They are rarely offended or feel insulted or hurt by anything. One who is humble can respect everyone and everyone will respect them. When we meet someone who is truly humble, a rare thing in this world, our hearts automatically go out to them.

However, it is a quality greatly misunderstood. People fear that being humble will mean that others will walk all over them. In fact, a truly humble person will stand up for themselves and will not permit anyone to abuse them or push them around. Humility does not mean bowing down to everyone. One with humility will deal with all the different situations in life in a gentle, loving, kind and considerate way. They will never blame or accuse others and therefore they win real love from the hearts of others.

There are three ways that the quality of humility is misunderstood. First, there is a religious or devotional humility which is more subservience than humility; a bowing down to everyone and the suppressing the real self. Secondly, there is humble obedience, but that is based on fear; fear of losing the respect, attention, or admiration of someone. So, there is obedience to everything that person wants. The third misunderstanding is that of being submissive. We all have opinions and yet we feel that supressing those opinions, especially in a gathering, is humility. Sometimes we may be bursting with things to say, and yet feel we are being humble if we suppress them all. All of this is because we want others to like us and fear that our opinions may alienate them.

However, true humility is born of the understanding of who I really am. I am a spiritual being of light, occupying the body on this field of action. I have forgotten this and therefore I identify with the body and consequently have two shadows hanging over me. One is the shadow of ego, a feeling of superiority and arrogance and the other is of inferiority, a lack of self-respect. I know if I am being truly humble when I am not internally criticising those around me, when I do not see others as far beneath me or see myself as hopelessly inadequate. If I am hurt by anyone then I know I am operating from ego.

Every day, on our spiritual journey, we constantly revisit the consciousness of being the soul, separate from the body and all its labels and roles, a pure being of light. Then our natural and original qualities emerge, one of which is ‘egolessness’, a real and honest humility.

Charlie Hogg, based in Sydney, is the National Co-ordinator, Brahma Kumaris, Australia.