Humility as taught by weather

The Values-in-Action character strengths include one called Humility and Modesty, a strength that people at least in America find somewhat offputting. How can that be a strength? What a boring strength! What good is that? I think people often associate the word humility with humiliation, which certainly doesn’t contribute to its appeal.

Yet humility is a strength desperately needed by the human race right now. We need to accept our position as only a part of a much bigger picture. We need to understand our limitations. We can create much bigger problems that we can solve. Today’s solutions tend to bring tomorrow’s problems.

We have an omnipresent tutor in the strength of humility: the weather. We cannot stop hurricanes or tornados. We can’t make the sun shine exactly when we want. We can’t make rain.

This year we’ve experienced a range of extremes with respect to rainfall on our own bit of land.

Early this summer, we had a torrential rain — 2.5 inches one day, 1.5 inches the next with an inch falling in 30 minutes. The little creek at the foot of our hill completely overflowed its banks.

Flooded creek

So that you can put this in perspective, here’s a picture from the same spot a few weeks later. I’m on the left standing at the creek level with my head and shoulders visible.

Creek at normal level

Now we are in the middle of a terrible drought following weeks of scorching heat. Local farmers are selling off their livestock early because they can’t find hay to feed them. Here’s the way the creek looks now.

Dry creek bed

We couldn’t stop the rain which probably caused flash floods in other parts of the state — and flash floods are dangerous. We can’t start the rain though our plants are drying up and even our hydro-power plants are starting to struggle.

Individually we can only observe, try to predict, and survive weather. Where we seem to have some impact on weather is in our collective behavior – the way many termites can collectively bring down a house. But that impact is not power since it is not intentional or under our control.

Weather is the great teacher of humility. It affects us all, every day. Its power can be phenomenal. We do not control it.


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