The Relationship Between Anonymity and Humility

Humility Of God Arabic Calligraphy

Humility is often seen as a virtue in religious and philosophical tradition. Therein it’s recognized as the quality of being modest and respectful; of being meek and humble, a reduced notion of one’s self importance. As a state of ego-less being, it is connected to notions of transcendent unity with the universe, the divine. 

We who seek spiritual guidance in our lives by “Living the 12 Steps of Recovery” in a method of monthly rotation, concentrate July’s efforts on our Step & Tradition VII.

Step VII Reads: “We Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

Several religious perspectives will help to achieve a greater “honest, open-minded and willing” understanding of Humility, for without these considerations we do not have an honest perspective of the truth, but only a narrow-minded caricature.

In Buddhism: by the process of becoming modest and humble, one is freed from suffering, vexations and all illusions of self-deception. Humility, compassion and wisdom characterize the state of enlightenment. The Christian perspective draws similarities, but has it’s own sectarian understandings. It’s found that Humility is annexed to the cardinal virtue of Temperance, which includes all virtues that restrain inordinate movements of our desires or appetites. Humility is: “A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself, willingly submitting themselves to God and others, for God’s sake.” Humility was found as a virtue extolled by Saint Francis of Assisi in his attributed work: “The Prayer of St Francis”, a 12 Step staple, characterized in the prayer’s phrase: “For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.” St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th century philosopher and theologian defines Humility similarly: it “consists in keeping oneself within one’s own bounds, not reaching out to things above one”. In the Qu’ran, Arabic words conveying the meaning of “Humility” convey meaning and the very term Islam can be interpreted as meaning “surrender (to God)”.

There is an important distinction of understanding which ought to be made regarding “Fasle or Feigned (faked) Humility.” “True humility” is distinctly different from “false humility,” which consists of fraudulently deprecating one’s own sanctity, gifts, talents, and accomplishments, essentially for the sake of receiving praise or adulation from others. A classic example would be this patronizing statement  made insincerely: “I am humbled by your presence.”

No matter what the sect, there is common agreement that Humility’s antithesis is Pride. One’s own arrogance and Hubris, one’s misunderstanding – self-deception or exaggeration of their importance – which keeps them from being “right-sized” (a term referred to as a comparative analogy in the proper Egoistic stance of Humility, from the original “12 Steps and 12 Traditions” – AAWS.

Mahatma Gandhi is attributed with suggesting that attempting to sustain truth without Humility is doomed to cause it to become instead, no more than an “arrogant caricature” of truth.

According to the Tao Te Ching: A wise person acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: — he does not wish to display his superiority.

My personal favorite example of Humility has been Mr. Spock’s selfless action in The Star Trek Adventures: “The Wrath of Khan.” Spock rushes to restore the main reactor by removing the shield from the Dilithium Crystal Convertor and is poisoned with radiation. In his dying moments, with his Vulcan Mind Melt hand configuration pressed against the glass with his friend, Capt. James T. Kirk, he says: “Jim – the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. I have been and always shall be your friend.” (for those of you that are nostalgic here it is courtesy of u-tube)

Humility and Anonymity

It has been expressed in our 12th Tradition that “Anonymity is at the spiritual foundation of all of our traditions, ever-reminding us to place principles before personalities.” Humility is similarly, the spiritual principle at the foundation of all of our steps, ever reminding us that it is Pride, Arrogance and Self-Righteousness that irrationally lead us to lose our perspective of being right-sized; to forget that we are not alone, not independent, but a part of a greater whole, in which Humility is essential to provide a pathway for our Unity. Anonymity is our agreement that we will humbly respect the privacy of others and rebuke our own tendency to seek authority and recognition under the feigned “False Humility” guise of it being for the good of the fellowship.

In Humility, the acquisition of which is the practice and main purpose of our Seventh Step, we find that we arrive at a greater level of consciousness through its sacrifice of personal recognition; a more harmonious union with our fellows, our universe and the power we recognize to be greater than ourselves. It facilitates Anonymity, allowing us to reduce our admitted selfish and self-centered shortcomings; to admit that they are a part of our emotionally instinctive spirit by our nature. They are disproportionate to what we would like to achieve, but through the use of inventory, awareness and practice, we can embark on a pathway that is always directed at progress, in this life we all call recovery.


The Penitent Soul is Humbled Before God