The Virtues of Humiliation

personal development Nov 09, 2020
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Why do we go to such lengths to avoid humiliation? Why are we so quick to exact humiliation on others? What happens if we seek humiliation for ourselves more frequently and project it on others less often?

Humiliation Is Human

Both words, humiliation and human, derive from the same ancient root word, dhghem, meaning "earth" or "on the ground." The Latin words humus (soil) and humilis (lowly, humble) derive from this same root.

Humiliation is often conflated with other terms. For instance, guilt and shame manifest similarly to humiliation viscerally and psychologically but are brought upon ourselves. When we don't measure up to our own expectations, guilt and shame may come to visit.

Embarrassment is also self-inflicted but is the result of measuring yourself against other people's expectations. Humiliation is unique because it is experienced due to someone else's appraisal of your worth or stature.

In short, where guilt, shame, and embarrassment are painful, they are also private. Humiliation is a public revealing of a personal misfortune, failure, or loss of status. 

But humiliation does not have to be accompanied by guilt, shame, or embarrassment. That is up to you. And seeking humiliation can have profound benefits.

Humiliation and Humility

Humiliation invites us to surrender our expectations and egos. We can create space for a courageous and honest conversation with ourselves about what's really at stake in humiliation. Yes, our hearts may break over our failed efforts in something we care about.


Failure, faltering, and coming up short is the frequent and necessary result of every worthwhile striving.

Embracing humiliation reminds us that we are human and, therefore, neither perfect nor alone. In humiliation, we can find value and worthiness that transcends ourselves. We can cultivate the virtues of patience, acceptance, and resilience, which help us persevere and continue to progress as thoughtful, conscious, and compassionate human beings.

Humiliation returns us to the earth. In humility, we can then begin and begin again to do the important and never ending work of humaning. Seeking hard and necessary truths, most of them beyond our understanding and even comprehension. Striving to enhance our lives through endeavors that elevate the lives of others.

How are you inviting and embracing humiliation today?

Scott Perry - Chief Difference-Maker at C  reative on Purpose

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