On Humility

Posted by:

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

There’s a lot of confusion in the world today surrounding the definition of the word humility.     I think we can all agree that showing humility, having more of it, and seeing more of it in the world would be a good thing.   In my experience in the classroom, however, too many students believe that Humility is the same thing as self-deprecation.    In fact, I would say too many adults believe the same thing.   To believe that being humble means you’re not allowed to see yourself as good at something, or even worse as having any value at all is to COMPLETELY MISS THE POINT. Besides, if that were true, who in their right mind would ever pursue Humility?

Humility has everything to do with value, however it doesn’t involve de-valuing yourself.   I think C.S Lewis explained it best by saying “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less (often).”  I believe this is such an important lesson that we have made Humility the first of our Band Program’s Core Values.   

Humility means that everyone has value and anyone can learn from anyone.   To look at someone and believe they have nothing to teach you, nothing to offer, nothing of value is the epitome of selfishness.   I can tell you, I learn just as much from 14-17 year olds every single day, as I am able to give them in return.   It’s just a matter of perspective.  My students don’t need sage on the stage giving them all the wisdom I have and not listening.  They need a guide on the side.  They need me to share, but to listen and learn from them in the process.    Being a band director is AMAZING in this regard.   I get to be with most of my students every day for 4 years!   Talk about growth potential!

Can we agree that Humility is greatly needed today?  We need it right now, and especially on social media.   It seems to me that anytime someone posts anything we don’t agree with, our gut reaction is to call them out on it…or post our dissenting opinion as quickly as possible.    That’s not to say you have to agree with everything everyone says, but I think that Humility would call you to take a moment, step back, consider what this person is saying (at least) and what might have led them to think this way.   It might even be a wonderful practice to start ‘just walking on by’ these posts, rather than interject yourself into them.   Besides – when was the last time you changed anyone’s views with a social media post?!?

Humility is magnetic!   I’ll bet if I asked you to name the most humble person you can think of in human history, a good number would mention Mother Theresa.   Mother Theresa was actually a member of a well to do family and was offered to be the head of a very prestigious school in India.   She gave it all up to serve the poor for the rest of her life.   She knew that the best way to change the world was to roll up her sleeves, set her ‘self’ aside and serve others.   And look at her legacy today.   She literally changed the world.

Mother Theresa is a great example of the paradox of humility.   In Habitudes we call it the Calcutta Paradox.   You see, under speaking about yourself, thinking of others and putting them first is magnetic.  We are DRAWN to the humble.   But think of the opposite.   Have you ever found yourself drawn to the arrogant?   The self-indulgent?   The ‘me first at all costs’ types?  NO.  In fact, I’d venture to guess you find them repulsive.  

Look at who’s suffering right now, in this situation.   The restaurant owners, the servers, the hourly wage workers, the gym owners, the STUDENTS.   All of these people depend on human interaction to live, to thrive, and to make a living.   What can we do to help them?   I have some suggestions:

  1. Stay at HOME!   Have humility enough to social distance.   It’s not a joke.   We need this to end as soon as possible.  Thinking it’s ‘not that big of deal’ isn’t helpful, it’s selfish.
  2. Patronize businesses from a distance.   Let your gym keep their member fees (if you can) while they’re closed.   Shop online where you can.   Order takeout.   
  3. Reach out and connect.  In whatever safe way you can, let people know you’re here for them and you love them and will do whatever you can to help.   

This quarantine may very well create a new class of ‘needy’ people.   We need to be ready to support them.   I’m one of the lucky ones.  My teaching job can be done from home and I’m still getting paychecks.   I cannot take that for granted, and I won’t!   Remember this phrase from “The Talmud”:

“If the a stone falls on a pot, woe to the pot.   If the pot falls on a stone, woe to the pot.   Either way, it’s bad for the pot.”

In light of that here’s a challenge for all of you this week – do 3 acts of kindness, randomly.   Here’s my examples so far:

  1. I emailed our climbing gym after they said they were refunding our money for the month, since they closed.   I told them to please keep it if it means they’ll stay open when we get back to socializing.
  2. I called one of my students at home (on google voice) to check on him.  He’s special needs and needed me to walk him through his assignments and build him up to see “yes you can do this, I believe in you!”
  3. I tipped 25% to the server who brought out our To-Go food last night from our favorite Mexican place (please stay open Totopos on E Paulding Dr!)
  4. I have set up a Zoom meeting today with our Seniors, ‘just to talk’ about how they’re handling losing so much of the end of their High School lives.

These things aren’t for me, they’re for ‘them’.  They’re for the ‘pots’ who no matter how you look at it are being crushed by this situation.  The paradox of humility calls me to do these things for THEM.  Strangely enough, I feel AWESOME about doing them!  

The fact of the matter is, my friends, if you want influence people; if you want to change the world and make it better, humility is key.   Stop thinking of yourself and your opinions, your ‘rightness’, what you’re deserved, and put others needs ahead of your own.   I’ll bet you’ll find your influence magnifies greatly.    In the end,  it won’t be easy, but that’s why we all it a paradox.