Actually, the opposite is true. Most really great people are quite humble. Those among the most respected who have ever lived acknowledge that their greatness came, not from their personal self, but from a higher power working through them. The true meaning of humility is knowing that the personal self is a vehicle of a higher power. Jesus of Nazareth said, “It is not I but the Father within that does the works” ( John 14:10). Other great spiritual leaders have recognized this; true genius has a deep sense of personal humility. First Imam of the Sh’ia branch of Islam, fourth caliph, said, “Hide the good you do, and make known the good done to you”; and Ben Sira, the great Hebrew scholar commented, “The greater you are, the more you must practice Humility.”
Sir Isaac Newton, one of the world’s greatest scientific explorers, made the following statement near the end of his life: “I feel like a little child playing by the seashore while the great ocean of truth lies undiscovered before me.” Another great scientist, Albert Einstein, was also known for his childlike simplicity. With all of his achievements in the world, he maintained a strong sense of humility. Dr. Walter Russell, a genius in many fields, echoed Jesus’ teaching when he said, “Until one learns to lose oneself, he cannot find himself. The personal ego must be dissolved and replaced by the universal ego.”
What is this universal ego and what’s the difference between it and the personal ego? To begin with, the personal ego is what most of us identify as our “self.” It’s who we believe ourself to be. It contains the modes of expression we give to our current opinions of ourself. The personal ego identifies with our appearance, our achievements, and our possessions. It is this self that can be inclined to compete with others and may feel hurt or angry if it doesn’t get what it wants. The human ego-self wants to feel important, to be right, and in control. The human ego also causes people to try to solve problems by human effort alone without turning to seek assistance in God’s wisdom.
Some people would say, “You’ve just described the human nature.” Perhaps this may be a description of the most familiar part of human nature. Yet, there is another part, a “higher self,” that exists in each of us as a spark of the divine. Unfortunately, most of the time this higher self remains hidden by the personal ego just described. We often can’t see this universal or “higher” self because we are blinded by our identification with the personal. It may be likened to trying to see the stars during the day. They are present in the universe but obscured by the light of the sun. Only when the sun goes down do we see these heavenly lights.
The true, universal self within us is an individualized center of God consciousness. As we become more willing to release the personal ego, we open the door to greater communication with God. The one who relies on his own wisdom, beauty, skill, or money seldom relies on God. But the one who is humble and grateful for all such God‑given blessings opens the door to heaven on earth here and now. Although God’s principles are spirit and cannot be seen, they are more real than tangible things.
Who today does not have faith in cosmic rays and radio waves, even though they are invisible? For each of us to grow in spirituality, it is important to free ourselves of self‑will and seek God’s will. When we avoid the ego‑centeredness, we may become clear channels for God’s love and wisdom to flow through us. To express greatness in our lives, we should learn to be humble.
In becoming humble, we can discover that humility rewards itself. To acknowledge humbly that we know only a little of God’s truth does not make us agnostic. If a medical doctor can admit with an open mind that he does not understand all diseases, symptoms, and cures, surely we can be humble by admitting we each have more to learn about God.