Our popular image of manliness usually consists of a man with a cocky swagger, a rebel who blazes his own path and stands confident and ready to take on the world. “Humility” doesn’t seem to fit into this image. Humility often times conjures up images of weakness, submissiveness, and fear. But this is a false idea of humility. Real humility is a sign of strength, authentic confidence, and courage. It is the mark of a true man.
The Hubris of Achilles
The ancient Greeks often wrote about the importance of humility. A reoccurring theme throughout their literature was the shameful, often fatal effects of hubris-excessive, arrogant pride. For the Greeks, hubris meant thinking you were wise when you were not. One story that drives home the importance of manly humility is Homer’s The Iliad.
Throughout The Iliad, we find young Achilles, the invincible Greek soldier, sitting in his tent pouting because King Agamemnon took his slave woman. All the while, Achilles’ countrymen are dying at the hands of the Trojans. Even when Agamemnon apologizes and gives back the woman in hopes that Achilles will start fighting, Achilles still acts like a little “NO GOOD” and refuses to do so. In fact, he starts to pack up to head back to Greece. He demonstrates a complete lack of humility. While his comrades perish, he seeks to save his own skin because of an inflated sense of self-importance and his arrogant pride.
This pride then results in the great Trojan, Hector, killing Achilles’ friend. It is only then, after it has become too late, that Achilles decides to fight. Even so, it isn’t even for his country; he is motivated by the pull of revenge. After Achilles kills Hector in battle, in an act of complete dishonor, Achilles ties up Hector’s body to a chariot and drags it around the walls of Troy for nine days.
While many today think of Achilles as a hero, to the ancient Greeks he embodied the shameful consequence of hubris. While they admired his legendary fighting ability, the real lesson they took from his story was the need to be humble.