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I Ching Hexagram Interpretations

15: Humility


Humility is rewarded in human affairs, just as valleys are filled by the erosion of great mountains. It is the way of the universe to fill the empty cup and to empty the full. Regardless of your position, humility is a deceptively powerful attribute. If you are in a high position but remain humble, people will be drawn to you and causes you espouse. If your position is lowly, humility will endear you to those of higher status. True humility is simply a virtue to which all should aspire.

The most successful people are those who know how to bring each situation into balance by reducing that which is too great, and adding to that which is too little. Such a person craves not power, but balanced and stable relationships. Humility is the virtue that allows you to perceive the balancing force in each situation; humble people are not prey to the many illusions that grow out of self-importance. If humility is particularly difficult for you, make a conscious effort to develop a strain of self-effacing humor.

Changing Line Interpretations

Line 1 (bottom line)

Unnecessary complications arise in the minds of arrogant people when facing a major task. Concern about how they may be perceived or judged, while carrying out the task becomes an extra obstacle to its completion. The unassuming attitude that goes with humility, on the other hand, permits greater focus on the task at hand. While the conceited fret over appearances or the opinions of others, the humble concentrate on what needs to be done. Make no claims or stipulations that can be contested, and you will meet no resistance.

Line 2

Profound humility is a gift. When a person is so sincere that his or her motives cannot be called into question, great good fortune is the reward.

Line 3

There are few sadder sights than that of someone who is dazzled by his or her own fame, beauty or brilliance. Success for such people is usually short lived, because in order to persevere to the end, some degree of simple humanity is needed for the continued support of others. There are few more noble achievements in creation, than that of a person who, despite great success, retains his or her humility. Good fortune attends to them enduringly.

Line 4

Beware of false modesty. Even humility, the most benevolent virtue, can be overdone. In this case, however, it is not a grave mistake, because of a responsibility you have undertaken. People in humble positions can also use false modesty as an excuse for weakness or vacillation. True humility does not imply humble goals, or a slack attitude regarding performance standards. Taking pride in your contribution is very different from the pride of self-importance.

Line 5

The wise do not hesitate to take desperate measures, when circumstances require them. When a responsible person takes a bold action, he or she also takes great care to see that the response is not born of self-importance but is equal to the need, and that objectivity and clarity of purpose support your position. If and when strong action does win the day, the honorable warrior shrinks back into the crowd.

Line 6 (top line)

When mistakes are made, and disagreement blows in as suddenly as a north wind, there is a strong tendency to assign blame in all directions. The immodest immediately raise their shields, thereby obscuring the truth from their own eyes. The weak take offense, and shrink away in doubt and self-pity. But the sincere and humble see the situation as a challenge to be met head-on -- first by examining themselves inwardly to identify their role in creating the current situation, and then by having the courage to act forcefully, but fairly, to rectify mistakes and clear the air. Humility is the true mark of nobility and always bodes good fortune.