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Excerpt from "The Five Gifts: Discovering Hope, Healing, and Strength When Disaster Strikes"

Humility, The First Gift

by Laurie Nadel, PhD.


If you could choose between having a million followers on Twitter or humility, which one would you pick? I thought so.

No one outside a religious order actually wants humility. And you won’t find patience, empathy, forgiveness, or growth high up on anyone’s gift list for the holidays. These Five Gifts are like those poor animals in the shelter that keep getting passed over.

Humility, patience, empathy, forgiveness, and growth are unwanted because they break us open—again. Seriously, haven’t we been through enough?

Here’s the good news: We won’t break in the same way, with depression and despair. Any one of the Five Gifts will release what we no longer need to be carrying. Speak them to yourself, or out loud. Write them on Post-it’s and place them around your space at eye level so they can keep reminding you that they are yours now, to be used whenever you want.

The Paradox of Unbearable Gifts

Anything that threatens the ego’s control over how we see the world can feel threatening, which is why I have come to think of these as “the five unbearable gifts.” Some of you get the paradox, while some of you want to know why you should want these gifts if they are so unbearable.

Logically, and under ordinary circumstances, you would never be looking for them. But when disaster strikes, these Five Gifts will help you to heal more quickly.

Humility, Revalued as an Atypical Gift

Although it’s undervalued and unappreciated in our ego-driven world, humility carries quite a few surprising benefits. In “Humility: A consistent and robust predictor of generosity,” Julie Exline and Peter Hill’s research finds that people with humility tend to be generous, grateful, and more authentic in their relationships. It may seem like an unlikely trait for leadership, but humility scores high as a leadership trait. Humble people tend to be more forgiving, too. (50)

In a fame-driven world, humility holds no value until life pulls the proverbial rug out from under our feet.

“Humility is not characteristic of our culture. It is just the opposite,” says Dai-en Friedman, senior monk at the Ocean Zendo in Sag Harbor, New York.

Over the past two decades, I have had the privilege of being her student. Our conversation about the Five Gifts has continued o and on for the past few years and I am deeply grateful for her perspective.

“We become humble when the world shakes us to our roots and we begin to examine what’s important in our life,” she says. “The only choice we have is to resist or work with what’s coming up. That, in itself, causes humility.”

Humility replaces the “Why me?” app with “Aaah!”, the universal sound of release. When we step into the first gift, we stop judging ourselves or giving value to the judgments of others. We stand in awe of forces greater than we can comprehend—natural forces, as well as destructive archetypal forces, such as hatred and rage.

Humility: Antidote to an Epidemic of Violence

Known to spawn rivers of hatred, intentional disasters have now reached epidemic levels. Our vulnerability to evil is real, and the world itself is in danger. Nobody likes reading that any more than I liked writing it. But as the frequency and intensity of disasters increases, the gift of humility can open the way to accept our vulnerability—as individuals, as communities, and as a species.

The late Nobel laureate Dr. Roger Sperry, who won the Nobel Prize in 1983 for discovering how the le and right brains work, granted me an interview a few years before his death in 1994. He was discouraged because we humans were the first species in the history of evolution who had designed and built the means to make ourselves extinct as a species, for no reason other than we were “smart enough” to figure out how to do it. As world leaders today compete by waving their nuclear penises, I won- der what Dr. Sperry would say. From a big picture perspective, our human arrogance now threatens our own survival on the planet.

Humility, Anyone?

“Conditions are urgent. This is a very historic time with the return of Nazism, anti-Semitism, and hatred for other people who are different. We face the threat of total annihilation of the human race at this time, in a way we have never experienced,” says Dai-en, adding that, “all situations are teachings. Everything that is happening around us is a teaching on impermanence.”

Who among us was not humbled by that teaching of impermanence when two of the world’s largest buildings dissolved on September 11, 2001? Dai-en says, “Impermanence is one of the greatest sufferings in humanity. We hold onto whatever we can hold onto. We build a big warehouse to give ourselves security. But there is no security because of impermanence.” In the face of that, humility gives us inner strength in surprising ways when we step into letting go of what we think should happen.

Laurie Nadel, PhD., is a specialist in acute stress, trauma, and anxiety issues. A journalist for twenty years, she recognized the need to help people whose lives were shattered by violence. After earning two doctorates through independent study and completing post-doctoral clinical training in mind-body medicine, she has pioneered emotional first aid tools to help lower acute stress after catastrophic events. Dr. Laurie is a member of a critical incident stress management team working with first responders, teachers and staff who were on the scene at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on February 14th, 2018 when 17 students and teachers were killed and another 17 were injured during a mass shooting. After losing her home to Hurricane Sandy, she ran long-term support groups for survivors. From 2003 to 2005, Dr. Laurie directed a program for teenagers whose fathers were killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks and wrote the script for After the Fall: The Rise of a 9/11 Community Center, narrated by Dan Rather.Her four-time bestseller, Sixth Sense: Unlocking Your Ultimate Mind Power, was featured twice on Oprah. She has been interviewed in The New York Times, National Public Radio, Reuters, and CNN.com. As a journalist, Laurie Nadel filed for Newsweek and United Press International in South America, wrote TV news for CBS, ABC News and Reuters Television, and was a religion columnist for The New York Times' Long Island section. She also helped created the Committee to Protect Journalists, an organization since 1981 that has fought for the rights of journalists around the world. THE FIVE GIFTS: Discovering Healing, Hope and Strength When Disaster Strikes (HCI) is her seventh book. For more information, please visit www.laurienadel.com.


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