3 core values of wholesome living


In the course of the past few weeks I have posted a few blogs about humility. There will be more to come. I wanted to pause briefly to look at two close relatives of humility: honesty, and self-awareness.

Being humble is not fake nor pretense. It is being honest with and about oneself. It is about realizing your abilities and weaknesses. It is not self-aggrandizement but understanding your true value. Actually, all this is another way of talking about honesty and self-awareness.

Any dictionary will show synonyms of honesty to include integrity, honor, principles, trust, righteousness, right-mindedness while antonyms include false, counterfeit and fraudulent.

At a social justice/social service center in Washington DC, a longtime case manager drew up a Better Life Pyramid as a guide to wholeness. At the base of the pyramid where one must begin are the three attributes of Honesty, Humility, and Self-Awareness. Without this base any attempts to wholeness crumble.

Stay tuned for more, and in the meantime share your views here or on facebook or by email



What are your challenges? Bring in humility.


Who does not have something they’re contending with? Poor health? Anger, or pride, or lack of trust? I believe we all have something in our lives we don’t like and would be happy to be rid of. May be we have even tried or we are still trying but it is still there. In my book, Paths As Yet Untrodden, I point out a few of my own struggles. I also cite the example of Ron, an example of gaining authority position and how anger takes from him the opportunity for happiness and joy.

As I am writing a friend from our bible study group lies in a rehab facility after she fell and broke her arm. At 92 years young she has known independent living, not relying on somebody else for everyday life, even driving to the store or to doctor appointments. Now she finds herself confined to a room in a rehab center, unsure as to how long she will be there and even more worrisome, what the future will look like after this?

I believe this would challenge any of us.

Amy Cuddy published a book with the title: Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges. 

Even if none of these examples are in your battleground,  may be you have known or have a relative struggling with substance abuse or in recovery. It is a challenge that confronts not only the afflicted but even more so those who are closest. The challenges of a dear one could very well be your challenges.

Whatever the case a version of Bob Marley’s quote says: “You never realize how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”. Being strong may itself turn out to be a challenge when it means giving up or losing control; accepting that I am not in control in this situation. In other words, humility turns out to be our strongest self when facing challenges.

Now, giving up does not mean not doing anything, as in despair. Stay tuned for more on this. In the meantime share your thoughts below or email me: joelmlay@gmail.com.



Seek humility and all these will be added


In my last blog I shared that happiness should not and cannot be pursued. Happiness is not a future achievement following some preparations and successes. For example, many people who think they will be happy after they find their dream job, or have made so much money, or have sent the last kid off to college and so on, may very well discover that at the end of their quest, happiness is even more elusive than when they began.

It is possible to find and enjoy happiness right now, where you are. Humility brings that about. You see, the humble are generally occupied with things bigger than themselves. That mindset deflects self-absorption, a major misery contributing factor.

I have cited specific examples in my book, Paths As Yet Untrodden, of how just a few hours a week volunteering at a homeless shelter or doing outreach ministry with neighbors living on the precipice contribute to satisfaction and fulfillment, the centerpiece of joy and happiness. As such, happiness for the humble is part of the journey, not a destination or a milestone in the future.

It is no wonder then that humility molds good leaders since they do not harbor competition or self-promotion in leadership but promote cooperation and relationship building, or what the American Psychological Association refers to as  “we-ness” or the Social Bonds Hypothesis.

And from good leaders to good employees, as an anonymous quote says, “great leaders inspire greatness in others”.

Let me know what you think. You can post a comment below or send me an e-mail: joelmlay@gmail.com


How humility wins over the pursuit of happiness


Kid Cudi in 2010 released as a single from his debut studio album, Man on the Moon,  a song he titled, Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare). The pursuit of happiness – minus the nightmare – is one of the three unalienable rights endowed to humankind by the Creator, according to the U. S Declaration of Independence, the other two being life and liberty. Now we know that pursuing happiness may indeed end up being a nightmare. In fact, happiness is not something you pursue or work to achieve. Just imagine doing everything necessary, laying the foundation for happiness to be attained sometime in the future after you complete whatever tasks are necessary.

Futility is the right term for such an endeavor. Happiness is a state of being, not a feat to be achieved. Joy and happiness are now, in the present, not waiting in the future.

Think of what we have touched on so far regarding humility. Humility focusses on others, not oneself. Humility espouses generosity and charity. Being humble makes it possible to accept rather than resist whatever is. As a result, humility makes gratitude possible.

That’s all that is needed for happiness right now, in this moment. Focus energy from self to others. As C. S Lewis put it, “humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”. Add to that acting with compassion, charity and generosity and be grateful for every moment of life. With that way of life you won’t need to pursue happiness. You will experience happiness everyday.

Examples of humility


In yesterday’s blog I referred to extraordinarily humble people who would have been listed in a previous blog. actually those individuals are listed in chapter 2 of my revised book, Paths as Yet Untrodden. My intention was to share some highlights from that chapter, and, I guess, I went ahead of myself. In any case, I was referring to statesmen like Julius Nyerere, the late former president of Tanzania, who the New York Times described as, “an uncharacteristically humble and modest national leader”, Nelson Mandela, described in biography.com as a writer, president, civil rights activist, and “a symbol of global peace-keeping”.

I have also listed icons of non-violence, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, as well as religious leaders like Pope Francis, archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and advocates of social justice like Mother Teresa. There are also billionaires on the list of individuals of exemplary humility, such as Warren Buffett, Ingvar Kamprad, Amancio Ortega, Karl Albrecht, Chuck Feeney, Alexander Lebedev, Christy Walton and Tim Cook and many, many others.

Look at any of them and you will see the 4 humility traits I referred to:

1. They focus their energy on others.

2. They are driven by compassion and charity.

3. They are guided by moral compass in making decisions, and a life of acceptance and gratitude.

4. They are strong in their convictions, not weak nor self-assertive.

Now that I have corrected the record – or rather, updated the record – we will then move on to the other qualities in the next blog. By the way, I invite you to share your comments below, including, especially, any disagreements or different points of view.


4 examples that you and your life are all-sufficient


If you and your life are all-sufficient, it means you are not lacking, you are not and need not be in competition with anyone, you can and have enough to give. A quick look at the examples of extraordinarily humble people in the last blog reveals some common character traits shared by them.

First, none of them can be described as weak. On the contrary they are and were very strong in their convictions. Remember Nelson Mandela’s speech from the dock during his trial for treason? “…I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

Second, from this same example, we see the readiness to sacrifice one’s life because humility focusses on others not on oneself. Self-assertion for one’s aggrandizement is not the way of humility. Connected to this character trait is a third quality – charity and compassion towards others.

A fourth quality is that of moral compass in decision-making. This is grounded in the nature of humility for acceptance and gratitude. We’ll examine this further, along with more character traits of humility in the next blog, but we are humble when we can accept with grace what life gives.

More to come.


What is real and authentic greatness?


Muhammad Ali is reported to have remarked, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am”. Many people have a wrong perception that humility is weakness; that self-promotion and assertiveness, even pride and arrogance or being brash are the means to achievement and success. It is true that today’s society, if the U.S president is an example, seems to denigrate the virtue of humility and promotes self-absorption.

A few months ago I posted 8 Pillars of Joy in this blog where humility is listed as one of the 4 attributes of mind that contribute to a full life of joy and peace, and in my book, my very last reflection also briefly touches on humility if we are to live with hope.  Chapter two of my revised version of the book begins with the significance of this virtue, not only for individual happiness and fulfillment, but also for leadership and public life.

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin, America’s premier success story as an inventor, genius of building relationships and connecting people and hence, a diplomat and scientist, listed 12 areas of attitude and action he wanted to improve. Seeking input, he showed the list to a friend who, wrote Franklin in his autobiography, “kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation”. Because of the comment, Franklin listed humility as number 13 area of improvement.

I wonder how many of us would want to list humility as a character trait we would seek. Yet, as we will see in subsequent blogs, from the highest office holder like the president of the United States, to an alcoholic or drug peddler struggling through recovery and sobriety, humility, as Confucius noted, is the solid foundation of all virtues.

You can read more about my personal experience with humility in Kindle Direct or get a copy of my book both available from amazon.com.

Why freedom is incomplete with an enslaved mind


Philip Arnold is quoted to have observed that “you will never be free until you free yourself from the prison of your own false thoughts”. It is true that when a prisoner is set free after serving time, it takes a lot of adjustment to be free of prison mentality. And, if you have any experience working with people in poverty or homelessness you know that moving out of that situation is complicated by a mindset that will not automatically adapt to the new situation.

One of my favorite psalms is Psalm 139, especially when I think of these words: “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you,  Lord, know it completely”.

Even when prominent public figures say things that shock us, we are reminded that the repository in our subconscious mind can equally shock us. For there is that which we picked up in childhood and from society and environment that will continue to enslave us even in the highest position of leadership. Is it hatred, arrogance, prejudice, or some phobia? What does the Lord – or higher power for the spiritual – see in me that I am not probably seeing?

For the Christian, “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). For the spiritual, “you will never be free until you free yourself from the prison of your own false thoughts”.

To prosper in any and every area of life, we must be set free, particularly from false thoughts and a negative mindset.

It is a journey not destination

The pronoun “it” can refer to a lot of things. It can refer to life, success, achievement, milestone, or anything. The point is, whatever it is, it is a process.

I got Paths As Yet Untrodden published on December 30, 2017 after some months of anxious effort, charting new territory and perseverance. I went to social media to announce the publication.

Guess what followed! Depression.

Believe me, there was a lot of excitement as I put together the reflections in the book. And as I shared again and again in the course of the months of preparation, it was about my experience and how those experiences were shared with other people. I put that out there for anybody to read.

Then what? That is the question I am asking myself. Heraclitus is quoted to have said, “no man/woman steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he/she is not the same person”. I have been and I should be changed – transformed – by the experience. And you, the reader, should also experience transformation in some way because you too stepped into the river.

The important thing is that this is an ongoing process, it is not a destination. I have already started on my next project, not just to go over the depression, but to continue on the journey.

Details will follow shortly.

Life on the precipice

After I introduced my book to the bible study group I am part of and sent out an email, one of my friends observed that the cover page image is the iconic Delicate Arch in Arches National Park in Utah, which is also pictured on Utah license plates. He recounted his and his wife’s  visit there last October and the hikes to the park’s more than 2000 arches. He added, “the hike may be easy or very challenging…we had to be careful about which hikes we chose”.

About the Delicate Arch he wrote, “it can be seen at a distance by a short walk to a viewpoint, or also by a longer hike around the side of a mountain. One can also hike right up to the foot of the arch via a three mile trail which is described as “difficult”…having no shade, some exposure to heights, steep rock slope, and a 200 year rock ledge”. He went on, “I really wanted to make the hike, but we decided not to take the risk and took the more safe trail instead”.

My friend was curious as to why I chose the arch for the cover of my book. But that is exactly the point. I mention in the Introduction that I debated whether to have the title “Life on the Precipice” because it is the first part of the theme.

I am glad that some of you may have had similar experiences in the Arches National Park or similar terrain, in the Rockies, Smoky Mountains, the Alps, or Sahara Desert. Those experiences illumine life on the precipice which is the theme of my book. My physical examples come from the Judean Desert, Timna, the Negev and Sinai, but they all illustrate what it is to live on the precipice.

What are your experiences? Paths As Yet Untrodden will remind you of our journey together as humans.