What Does it Mean to be Humble?

“The one characteristic of authentic power that most people overlook is humbleness. It is important for many reasons. A humble person walks in a friendly world. He or she sees friends everywhere he or she looks, wherever he or she goes, whomever he or she meets. His or her perception goes beyond the shell of appearance and into essence.”

— Gary Zukav

Last month, I talked about a concept, lokahe, which means oneness or working with unity. This concept comes from Huna, the indigenous science of ancient Hawaiians for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. I am fortunate to have been chosen to carry on the 28th generation of a particular lineage of Huna, and I now teach Huna’s wisdom to students from all over the world.

As ancient as Huna is, I still find it perfectly applicable to our lives today. Another concept from Huna that has caught my attention lately is ha’a ha’a. Ha’a ha’a means humility or to be humble. It’s a key ingredient to any type of spiritual growth or personal evolution, and in my humble opinion, it is often one of the keys to lasting success.

Before I tell you why this is so, let’s talk about what humility is and isn’t:

Humility is not about being self-critical or self-deprecating. Ha’a ha’a doesn’t mean that you are down on yourself or think that you are less worthy than others. Instead it is that quiet confidence that doesn’t require bragging or boasting. You are confident in yourself, your talents and your skills, but you don’t go around showing off or trying to gain others’ approval or applause.

When I meet someone and they ask me what I do for a living, I don’t start off by saying, “Well, I have a number of degrees in various disciplines and a PhD in Psychology. I have attained the level of kumu (teacher) and I lead Huna and Neuro Linguistic Programming trainings for people from all over the world. And clients pay megabucks to do private coaching with me.” That's not being ha‘a ha‘a. To be ha‘a ha‘a, I give the simplest explanation that is truthful. "I work with individuals on improving what they do and their communication skills. I teach people to empower themselves." Once we know each other better and talk at depth, I'll eventually explain about Huna and Neuro Linguistic Programming because I want to be truthful.

Humility is not about denying what you know or what you believe. It’s also not thinking that you know it all or that your belief is the only game in town! One of my favorite sayings has always been "You never know who you're talking to." The person listening to me may actually know more about a topic than I do. I’ve studied many disciplines in health, psychology and spirituality. The more I've learned, the more I realize how much I don't know and how much there is to learn.

When I was younger, I spent a summer with Uncle George Na’ope who was one of my kumu. Every day when I entered his school of Hula, I saw a phrase above the entrance: A ohe pau ko ike i kou halau. In English, the phrase means: "Think not that all wisdom is in your school." For decades, this phrase has been my constant reminder that my way is not the only way of thinking, being or doing. Being ha‘a ha‘a is offering respect to everyone and respecting where they came from in their model of the world.

Humility is not about hiding your light in a bushel. Being humble doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to hide out or pretend to be less than you are. That is a false humility that serves no one. Ha‘a ha‘a says, "I know I have gifts, as do others. I have things to teach, and much to learn. My talents are to be shared, not applauded."

I’ve been a teacher for many years now. Teaching is my gift and my passion. Your light might be that you are a terrific parent or a brilliant artist. You might be really smart or have a great singing voice. Whatever your gifts—and we all have gifts—those gifts are meant to be shared. The more you share, the more that comes back to you. Sharing your gifts and appreciating others’ gifts is ha’a ha’a. But constantly seeking admiration for those gifts is not.

Ha‘a ha‘a is a very important concept in Huna and on any path that seeks to expand awareness. An overblown ego is a big trap along the road of spiritual evolution. The minute you think you know something for certain, your spiritual growth stops dead cold. There’s a story about a Zen master who kept filling a visitor’s tea cup even though it overflowed. When the guest protested, he said, “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in.”

Lack of humility is also deadly in other areas of life. People without ha’a ha’a tend to play power games, losing their connection to others. They talk when they should listen. They cling to their opinions and ideas rather than opening to the wisdom and viewpoints of others. Basically, they cut themselves off from knowledge, intelligence, relationships and support from others that could help them grow both personally and professionally.

Authentic power includes ha’a ha’a, humility. The moment you let fame or success go to your head, you unplug from that authentic power. As basketball great John Wooden said:

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

To your TOTAL empowerment!


Dr. Matt


Byline: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy, and Empowerment Fit, a program that incorporates targeted mind/body/spirit practices to create optimal physical fitness and health. Download his free special report, Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know to Achieve Your Goals. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at info@Huna.com or visit his blog at www.DrMatt.com.

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