Humility is often a misunderstood word. Many confuse it with meekness or weakness. The result is that they resort to arrogance and waste a lot of energy in the process. This is very unfortunate. Therefore, the need is to understand the word ‘humility’ carefully. While the outer manifestations of ‘humility’ and 'meekness' may be the same, the inner situation is totally different. Humility can be shown only by a strong, fearless and a detached person while meekness is the result of weakness, fear or undue expectation. Humility is an ornament of the brave while meekness is a symptom of cowardice. Once we understand this difference well, we can cultivate humility in a natural manner, thus conserving our energy which can be used for more constructive purposes.
I learnt the above lesson from a book on Lal Bahadur Shastri written by an ex-Director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. He was also my Director when I was there for the IAS training course. He had worked with Shastriji for a long time and had known him closely. He also used to deliver a few lectures on the personality of Shastriji to the probationers. I was greatly influenced by his lectures as well as the book.
Shastriji came from a background of penury but rose to the position of the Prime Minister of India. All through he was a humble but in no way a weak man. He had the courage to own responsibility for mistakes committed by his subordinates and also the nerve to take strong decisions whenever necessary. This was amply evident during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. Even in Tashkent, he had displayed tremendous courage during the talks with Ayub Khan when he refused to budge from his stand on Kashmir. He lived a very simple life and commanded the respect of all. When he gave a call to give up cereals once a week, the whole nation responded positively because of the respect he commanded.
Who says that humility is weakness? Only those who are humble in the true sense enjoy the strength of humility.