The story of the life and times of the Earl of Essex continued to roll around in my mind after my last post.

The Earl had made an absolute ass of himself, to say the least. It was finally time to pay up for some of his self-aggrandizing decisions which had compromised the best interests of England. He had followed those decisions with overt and unequivocal treason. He was in a pickle which objectively could not be blamed on anyone but himself. It was time for some good old-fashioned humility. Prior to his treasonous plottings, humility was all the Queen would require of him. The court looked on with some astonishment at Essex's haughtiness in the face of his exposure. Now, convicted of treason, humility was what the Counsel was expecting from him.

"[Essex] asked for mercy for Southampton [a co-conspirator], but said he would not 'fawningly beg' for it for himself, and, looking at the peers, added, 'Although you have condemned me in a court of judgement, yet in the court of your conscience, ye would absolve me, who have intended no harm against the prince.' " The Life of Elizabeth I, pg. 464, emphasis added.

Notice his appeal to his pure intentions. Even though there were other co-conspirators who confessed the plotters were willing to even shed the blood of the Queen to place Essex on the throne, Essex would appeal to the purity of his motives. It was a lie. He was playing the martyr.

"The condemned were generally expected to express humble submission, and Essex's speech was reckoned by many of those present to be unfittingly arrogant for one on the brink of Divine Judgement, and whose guilt was so manifest...

...Many people at court believed that, if Essex begged the Queen for mercy, she would spare his life, but Essex remained true to his word and proudly refrained from making any 'cringing submission'. Despite the efforts of the Dean of Norwich, who had been sent to him by the Council, he would not acknowledge his guilt." Ibid. pg. 465

Ah, yes, a life of arrogance and pride and haughty refusal to ever submit to authority had rendered Essex incapable of humility when it could have possibly saved his life. Which leads me to one of life's axioms...

We either voluntarily humble ourselves or life will humiliate you. Sooner or later. We get to choose. Humility or humiliation.

When we make mistakes, when we hurt someone, when we sin, we face a choice. The decent person will take ownership of what he has done. He will not try to lessen his guilt by spreading the blame or offering up excuses. He volunteers to humble himself. Decent people will not savage the humbled. It appeals to their sense of mercy and compassion. We tend to think more highly of a person who will display some true and appropriate humility.

Narcissists don't get this. They despise the humble, therefore they will not assume humility when the circumstances demand they should. They then rail against the humiliation they must suffer at the hands of ingrates and idiots. In refusing humility they have earned humiliation.

The humble can't be humiliated. They are not invested in protecting an image. They are not craving the adulation of the masses. They are not looking for recognition. They don't strive to lay claim to being the smartest, the most beautiful, the most talented, the supreme pinnacle of mankind. How can you humiliate a truly humble man? Even if you strip him of his reputation, his livelihood, his clothing...he has his integrity. He knows who he really is; he can not be shamed. He can still walk with his shoulders squared and look you steadily in the eye. Humility doesn't mean beaten down. It means taking a proper assessment of oneself and recognizing your limitations. It is being real with yourself and the world. A humble man has dignity. The narcissist thinks humility is humiliation. The two concepts are not the same. We would do well to know the difference.

The narcissist is an accomplished shame deflector. Because of this he is mostly insensible to the humiliation he does eventually earn. We marvel at his imbecility. We wonder what it is like to be so exposed and yet have no ability to behave as if his sins have been laid bare. We call it madness. It is not. It is supreme arrogant pride. The only avenue to avoid the humiliation that finally catches up with him was closed off long, long ago. His absolute refusal to humble himself leaves him open to the ridicule and disgust of the decent. In the end. Someday.

Humility or humiliation. It is a choice we each get to make.

A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.
Proverbs 29:23 KJV

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Philippians 2:3

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