What is it that really defines greatness? The person, their power or their money? We live in confusing times: consumer societies revolve around money and, as a result of this, power. In the most intimate and close-knit circles, we know that greatness comes from humility. Today, more than ever, the saying of Baron de Montesquieu holds true: “To be really great, you have to be with the people, not lord it over them.”
The problem comes from childhood, when it is instilled in us that we should hold ourselves above other people, introducing stereotypes that encourage competitiveness. The groups that we form within our family, and with our friends and co-workers are plagued with intolerance and prejudice.
If a group is very conservative, it will boast of its values and its respect for norms, discouraging change of any sort. If a group is very innovative, it will boast of being in step with modern times and evolution, without taking into account the origins and cycles that are repeated over and over again from ages past. To really achieve greatness, we have to be able to see individuals as special people in all their shades and tones, not as inferior stereotypes.
“The man of talent is naturally inclined to criticism, because he sees more things than other men and sees them better.”
-Barón de Montesquieu-
We are happier when we share
What is the first thing we do when we receive good news? We share it. Think about when you achieved some sort of success, such as finishing college, finding a job, getting married. All this news that makes our hearts skip a beat is even more satisfying if we share it.
When we share our news we become even happier with our lives and more connected to other people, resulting in longer lasting health for our bodies and brains. This has been demonstrated by the Adult Development survey, the longest and furthest reaching research on happiness, which began 76 years ago and continues today at Harvard University.
For decades the participants of the study have answered questionnaires about their family, their work and their life in the community. The researchers have also had access to their medical records, and as a result they have been able to evaluate their health not only from the viewpoint of the participants in the study, but also using tangible data, such as those collected from the medical records.
The study has shown that relationships give us energy when we invest our time in them, and as a result, the relationships becoming more vibrant and less exhausting. To achieve this, of course, we have to cooperate and not try and compete to stay ahead of those around us. Even though the social inclination these days is often to isolate ourselves, stay at home and watch TV or spend time on social networks, the studies show that we are happier when we share our time with others.
“Men are rich only in proportion to what they give. He who gives a great service receives a great reward. “
Humility: the moral virtue that stops us from putting others down
In order to share, give or relate to other people in an all-embracing and healthy way, we need to work on our humility. Humility is the value that opens the key to our inner peace and personal well-being. The lack of humility in the latest generations is both surprising and worrying. This is due, in part, to the fact that humility is an undervalued, dormant characteristic, which has been relegated to the league of useless virtues in our competitive societies.
What our society, and the men who drive it with their opposing values, do not realise, is that humility creates greatness. Humility allows us to control behavioral excesses, leaving a space for other people’s virtues to show themselves and for us to appreciate them. This is the best vaccine to prevent us ever feeling superior to other people.
There are arrogant, narcissistic and overbearing people, who believe they are great because they have their own way of interpreting greatness. These people can achieve material power, but their attitude will make it difficult for them to continue growing. The emptiness created by not knowing how to recognize our limitations, all in the name of further development, is not filled by material things, even though we may occasionally perceive illusions that contradict this idea.
“The important thing to keep ourselves happy and healthy throughout our lives is the quality of our relationships.”