I was talking to a guy here at work about the problem with the world. It was pretty entertaining because of his perspective. I was being particularly argumentative. His point was: people need to learn respect. I told him, because I was being argumentative, and now in hindsight because it was a better argument all around, what people need to learn is humility.
Note to the reader: what people need is the presence of Jesus Christ in their lives and to take that seriously, but that was not an option with this particular person - so I stuck with seemingly safe philosophical concepts. There's a clear parallel with Jesus Christ and humility, though.
My comrade made the point that if people respect each other they treat each other more civil. Moreover, respect creates a greater cross-cultural understanding and such benefits result in a more stable political climate and a lessened persistence of criminal behavior. I agreed. (sneaky)
Sure, I thought to myself, if Hitler had only respected the Jews. Sure, I thought to myself, if only big industry had only respected the citizens around their plants. Sure, I thought to myself, if only drug pushers only respected their victims more.
Respect is callous. That's the problem, I explained. Think of it like this: if a mistake occurs wherein a nuclear missile is mistakenly launched into the heart of a major Russian metropolis, is it "respectable" for them to reply with their own warheads? Yes it is. Would other countries respect Russia's sovereignty? Sure they would. Would even U.S. allies respect their right to counter strike? Probably. Their counter-strike is not a respectable cause of war, but our initial strike was. Would America like it? No. Would we say, "You don't have the right to respond!" No. Respect - especially taken to its logical extreme, dictates the nation of Russia, the families of the victims, and even the allies of Russia have rights to respond in a similar manner. This is because respect is callous.
Though mercy is respectable, it is not a by product of respect.
Humility, on the other hand, is a source of mercy. I don't throw the first stone because I know my own sin. Humility takes personal importance and intentionally lowers it below others. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon do you remember the scene where the princess asked Bai who he was and he quickly snapped, "I am nothing." That's the logical extreme of my position. An individual should has self-worth, but choose position him or herself under the importance of others.
A note of clarification would be to say that humility is the act of lowering, not the act of rising up. Others are not over you in importance because you have exalted them, rather because you have lowered yourself. There's an importance there psychologically and in practice. We are not setting people up to fall and we are felling ourselves by choice. Another important point is that we have to humble ourselves, humility gained from others actions is rarely long lasting or genuine.
Humility is also not denial of self-worth. Each and every person is important, including you, and that point alone is the heart of humility-the recognition that all people have importance, and nothing makes you more so. it would even be fair to use the word "value" instead of "importance." This easily allows you to say, "All people have value, and I am going to subject my own worth to theirs."
When I worked at Kanakuk, we talked about the I'm Third concept where you place the impact on or to Jesus Christ first in priority when making a decision, then place other people second and follow with yourself. Thus, I'm Third. Others have called it JOY, meaning Jesus-Others-You. This is really what I mean with humility.
Ghandi said that whenever you make a decision you should consider the impact of that decision on the weakest, poorest, meekest person in your society. This is sort of like what I am think of here.
Now let's think about Hitler. Let's say he is an atheist, so he is practicing I'm Second. Now, how would his logic let him kill the Jews? In all reality, it would not allow him to even ascend to such a violent position in the first place.
Big business? Can you really see a humble CEO saying to his developers that the numbers show that the company will make more money in the profits than they could ever lose in a lawsuit, so continue on? Never. He would think about how important the plumber is on Elm Street and cancel the work.
Could a drug pusher actually sell a hit? Shoot, man, could any criminal ever commit a crime once he took into consideration the impact on the victim? No way.
So (and let me tell you that I know I am controlling the perception here) do you want a world of humility where people are looking out for the better interest of their fellow world citizens with an honest and meaningful reduction in all crime, abuse and neglect or do you want to look up in the sky and see the vindictive, yet respectable, retort of a Russian nuclear arsenal heading for City Hall? You choose.