We have a reader question from Hari
Humility is often misunderstood as weakness and the humans make use of this opportunity to suppress and dominate you. Why don’t they understand it as it is, as love, why do they think it is advantageous to oppress?
Let me tell you a story.
There was a snake who used to live by the side of a river where many people would come to fulfill their need of water. The snake was afraid if people would hurt him so it would bite anybody who went near his reside. Due to snake’s bite, many people would lose their lives on a regular basis.
People in the village went to a sage and requested him to find a solution. The sage advised not to kill the snake since it is the snake which ensures rats do not make the water dirty. He went to the snake and told him
Look, no one will harm you from now on. But please do not bite people unnecessarily, I promise you no one will come near your residence and pose a threat going forward.
The snake obliged.
After a few days, people started taking the snake loosely. Boys would throw stones on the snake, people will tease him to see how he reacts. As the snake had promised that it won’t harm anyone, it kept the promise but people started misusing his promise.
The snake then went to the sage and asked for justice
You told me not to bite anybody. I followed your order. But look, people are disturbing me every day. They throw stones at me, bring sticks and disturb me when I am sleeping. I have kept my side of the promise but your people haven’t. Is this your way of doing justice?
The sage replied
I told you not to bite anyone. But I never told you not to “hiss”.
The snake understood what the sage meant and from next day, it would “hiss” or appear dangerous to people who would otherwise disturb him. He never bit anyone but a small “hiss” from his side ensured no one disturbs him.
Humility doesn’t mean you have to Oblige to everything
Be humble but at the same time, don’t let people think that you are weak.
A snake should appear venomous, even if it is not poisonous. It is but a human tendency to exploit the weak, let people think that you are weak but when they come to take advantage of your weakness, you should show them how strong you are.
In the Mahabharata war, Arjuna was always humble towards his Guru and Peetamaha Bheesma. He never insulted them and never used fowl words. Duryodhana thought that Arjuna is afraid of Bheesma and Bheesma can beat him leisurely. So he orders Bheesma,
What are you doing here? Can’t you see that Arjuna is nowhere close to you, he is afraid of you and is fighting with someone else. Go and kill him right now.
To this Bheesma had said
O my foolish Duryodhana. Do not take Arjuna’s humility for his weakness. I know what Arjuna is and he also knows who I am. We both know that if we fight with each other, it will be just a stalemate. Hence, he is weakening your other arms one by one and not indulging in unnecessary fight, and I am doing the same thing. Do not consider your enemy’s humility as his weakness, then you will certainly lose this war and every other battle going forward.
It is the fool who considers humility as weakness. The wise man knows the difference between humility and diffidence. There is little you can do if a foolish man considers your humbleness as your weakness. You cannot teach him the lesson but you can certainly show him your other side without being rude.
Arjuna was often insulted by Duryodhana and Karna but Arjuna never replied back. Instead, he let his bows do the talking and beat Karna in every battle one by one. No matter how many times Duryodhana and his brothers would insult Arjuna, he never lost his mind. He kept his cool and defeated his arch rival through his skill, giving the answer in an indirect way, without being verbally offensive.
So when a fool considers your humbleness as your weakness, you’ve got to give them the answer in the form of work. What you do, do it well and let your action speak louder than words.