To grow individually means to become a better person, a human being with greater character, competence and confidence.
To grow socially means to become better recognized and respected by others, to be valued for one’s opinions and contributions.
We all wish to grow both individually and socially. Unfortunately, we sometimes adopt unwittingly an approach that backfires on both fronts: we tend to look at the good in ourselves and the bad in others.
Our ego often makes us believe that we are the best thing waiting to happen to the world – if only it would take notice and take heed. Blinding us to our defects and deficiencies, the ego binds us to an imaginary and self-congratulatory self-conception that chokes our personal growth. Worse still, it keeps us self-righteously insulated from outer help, for we believe: “People don’t even understand who I am and what I can do – how can they help me?”
Humility allows us to break free from the clutches of such megalomania and to recognize our true self-worth, with both our strengths and our weaknesses. With the honest self-appraisal founded in humility, we can take tangible steps to overcome our weaknesses and grow individually.
The ego sabotages our prospects for social growth too by making us believe that we become better than others by being able to see their faults. Our ego gets a perverse tickle when we broadcast the weaknesses of others – and the tickle feels even better if we can make those broadcasts sarcastic. While such taunts may earn us some laughs among other small-minded people, it eventually erodes the trust that the people who matter have in us, for they think: “If this guy can speak thus about that person behind the back, what will stop him from doing the same to me later?” Due to the resulting trust bankruptcy, we can’t develop deep meaningful relationships and are never considered leadership material by others. Consequently, our attempts for social growth are repeatedly thwarted, even among the society of people who seem to like us.
The Bhagavad-gita (16.02-03) pertinently declares modesty and aversion to faultfinding as the integral characteristics of the godly, people who are on the path of inner and outer growth. Modesty or humility frees us from the constant craving for self-glorification and enables us to introspect, thereby identifying and rectifying our weaknesses. And aversion to fault-finding enables us to focus on the good in others, thereby not only encouraging them to become better, but also to develop deeper rapports with us, thus laying the foundations for our social growth.[ false-ego ] [ humility ] [ modesty ]