Traits of a Warrior: Humility

BWCAW camping CrossFit humility

Know Your Limits

Generally, a Warrior needs to know his limitations, and he has to be able to live with them. This awareness helps ensure inner balance, but it also creates the circumstances for outer success. By acknowledging your limitations, you can do what you need to to compensate for, and eventually overcome them. By refusing to acknowledge them, you simply continue to bang your head against the wall.

A good example of this comes from the movie 300. The Spartans knew they were the better warriors, but they also knew that no amount of skill or determination would help them defeat so many Persians in open combat. They accepted the reality of the situation and chose to fight in a narrow gorge. And when they were surrounded, it didn't take much more than positioning to turn the greatest warriors in the world into fish in a barrel. Would they have been better off raging against the reality and running out into the open right away? Even when they had the advantage, they knew to return to their gorge and hold their advantageous position. Their's was a fight of holding themselves back because the situation demanded so much of them.

CrossFit is the same. No matter how good you get, there will always be a workout that will leave you on your knees. There is always a time to beat, or a weight to surpass.

Nature's Wrath, Man's Power

This does not mean that one should simply give up or accept mediocrity. Humility does not mean accepting weaknesses. It means being aware of them, and giving due respect to the difficulty of a situation. This is a lesson campers learn well the first time they are caught in a storm. Most people do not think much of rain, until they are stuck in it. A little water can quickly turn into ruined food, soaked sleeping bags, and even hypothermia and death. An experienced camper takes the time to pack carefully, and is conscientious about waterproofing her gear and herself. Even then, it takes little more than a millimeter tear in the tent to ruin the rest of your trip. It's a small thing, but failing to respect the rain can bring serious consequences.

When I first started camping with my dad, I was always frustrated at how careful he was with everything, how slow and methodical he packed and unpacked, how he was always admonishing me to keep things tidy and neat. We were camping! The whole point was to be messy. Usually, he just cleaned up after me, but eventually, he stopped doing that when I got old enough, and I learned very quickly that he had good reasons for not leaving gear strewn around the campsite. Windstorms in the Boundary Waters can brew out of clear skies in minutes, less time than it takes to tidy up your campsite. But it's just wind!

Every Tree Grows from a Seed

One of the hardest things modern Americans have trouble accepting is the need to do work to achieve results. Ours is a society used to getting what it wants, when it wants. How many New Year's Resolutions are ended because people realize, oh hey I have to actually work to lose weight/get stronger/quit smoking. This takes effort. We are very good at envisioning where we want to be, but have some trouble accepting where we are now. But we must realize, the connection between those two states, where we are and where we want to be, is unbreakable. Every journey has a start, and part of humility is accepting the reality of that starting spot. After all, the new you will grow out of the current you. To deny the latter is to inhibit the creation of the former. So, in a sense, humility is understanding that you are not yet what you want to become. But only by being humble can you eventually grow great.

Modern society has made us, as humans, a little too complacent. The convenience of our houses mean we never worry about cold or rain or wind. These things have become curiosities more than concerns. Cars and machines have eliminated the respect for weight we used to have. When you have to rely on your own manpower to move something, you come to understand just how limited our capacity for exertion really is in the grand scheme of things. When you have to rely on your own footpower to carry your gear through 20 miles of forest in one day, you come to respect how small you are in comparison to the vast swathes of wilderness. When you find yourself cowering in your tent during a thunderstorm, hoping lightening doesn't strike a tree next to your tent, you realize how puny you are.

But you also start to understand how powerful you are. It's not much compared to some, but I have carried 70lbs across as many miles on foot, over mountains and through swamps. I have dragged myself through workouts that left me gasping for air and honestly hoping I would pass out. I have driven a canoe through rain that was so heavy I couldn't distinguish the water above me from the water below. When you are standing at the base of a mountain, it looks insurmountable, but when you stand at the top, you realize just how much you are capable of. The key, of course, is to have respect for the amount of work that it took to accomplish that task. Just because running a marathon occurs in small steps doesn't mean it is impossible. It just means a Warrior must accept that fact that he will have to make every one of those steps. Humility is about accepting that you will have to do the work, that you cannot deny the reality of the situation, and that you cannot make miracles happen simply by willing them to. Miracles happen by the sweat and blood of Warriors, one step at a time.

Image Source: (nz)dave on Flickr