The Study of Liberal Arts Cultivates Humility
Written by Heather Woodhouse
C.S. Lewis said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
But sometimes it seems like college is set up as a selfish enterprise. Students come to college ready for a new beginning—ready to take on the world. It can be easy to focus on our own grades and extra-curricular activities. It can be easy to stop caring about other people. We get tunnel vision, with only our own goals in sight.
Ramona Tausz, a senior studying English and journalism, is one of the chillest, humblest, and smartest students I know. I asked her about her experience at Hillsdale, and according to Ramona,“I actually saw potential that Hillsdale would not be very humbling. There’s potential to set yourself up as elite. There’s a constant temptation to pursue your own glory or success.”
However, Ramona says the study of liberal arts demands and cultivates humility. “The study of the liberal arts is never done.” That in itself is humbling. “Not only are you in awe of the minds that you’re reading, but you realize that your journey will be lifelong. You’re never going to be ‘finished,’ so in that sense you have to quell your pride.”
Ramona also expressed that the more she’s studied the great books, the more she’s become aware of the human condition. To struggle with one’s own glory is to struggle with pride. She says that the study of literature is one of the most effective means she’s found for discerning how to pursue virtue. “These books teach us how to order our own loves,” she says—“loves for other people, loves for God.”
I asked Ramona how she has been humbled at Hillsdale. “The moments of correction have been when I have advanced the most. You can answer something correctly in class, but that’s not when the lightbulb goes on in your head. It’s the moments when a professor tells you that your reading has a flaw that you’re then able to actually take a step back and advance further in your reading of the text than you would have before.”
Everyone learns differently. Perhaps there are some people at Hillsdale who don’t have to study as much, but Ramona says, “Along the way, often times you might see certain things in your struggle, in your journey of the work that others don’t because they aren’t undergoing the same struggle as you are.”
I guess sometimes work doesn’t make you wiser. Anybody could come to Hillsdale and not be humbled in the slightest. You can think of yourself all the time, and nothing else. You can blame professors when classes don’t go well and carry a sense of injustice with you.
Or you can embrace the struggle, embrace the moments of correction, and continue ordering your loves and talents for the worship of a greater power.
Heather Woodhouse, ’18, is a music and English major from Eagle River, Alaska. When she’s not writing fictional short stories, Heather can be found in Howard Music Hall rocking out on jazz flute or playing didgeridoo in flute ensemble. On breaks she beats her two older brothers at Super Smash Bros’ Brawl, Resistance, and Table Tennis. She greatly admires Ray Bradbury, Oscar Wilde, Ian Anderson, and is a friend of Krispy Kreme.