“It was pride that changed angels into devils. It is humility that makes men as angels,” – St. Augustine of Hippo
Humility matters, perhaps more so today than ever. It’s a character trait that, when exhibited regularly and authentically, can help us be better listeners, inspire others, build relationships, and give us insight into different ways of thinking and being…something that in my opinion, we are in desperate need of. The only way we can solve the massive issues we face as a society is to be more humble in how we lead, follow, think, speak, and act.In contrast, arrogance, humility’s antithesis, happens when we let our egos get in our way. Arrogance is the gateway to intolerance, exclusion, and judgmental mindsets. It is the killer of curiosity because it leads to thinking, “I know what’s right. I know what’s wrong. I know what’s best. I don’t care what you think.” It allows us to tell ourselves that we can say and do whatever we want with little regard to others. Screw political correctness, general cordialness, or respectful debate. In fact let’s just go to war (with each other or with other nations) and impose our (arrogant) will. This is incredibly dangerous and obviously unproductive given the state of the world right now.
So what exactly is humility? Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as, “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people.” C.S. Lewis says it’s, “not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” The Urban Dictionary states that it is, “remaining teachable, knowing that you do not have all the answers.” I think the three of these together give a fairly decent picture of what we all should strive to be but in effort to make it clearer, here are ten things you can do to be more humble.
- Understand yourself. We all have talents and strengths; we all have faults and weaknesses. Having a deep understanding of yours will help you stay grounded. When you find yourself judging others for their shortcomings, remember that you, too, have qualities that can negatively affect your relationships and decrease your overall effectiveness. Focus on improving yourself rather than condemning others.
- Don’t showboat or brag. Self-confidence is important but no one wants to hear about how great you are at this or that, nor do they care about your golf handicap, what kind of car you drive, or how big your house is.
- Admit when you are wrong, make a mistake, have poor judgment, or fumble a situation. No one is perfect and you shouldn’t pretend to be. In fact, most people value this kind of authenticity and vulnerability.
- Apologize when you need to and even when you don’t. An apology says, “I understand I had a role in this and am accountable for it.” And it makes space for others to do the same.
- Show gratitude and give credit to others. Yes, you have worked hard for what you have but you wouldn’t be where you are today if it weren’t for all the people who supported you along the way. Say thank you and be appreciative for what you have and to those who’ve helped you.
- Recognize you don’t have all the answers. You see the world from your perspective and there are many different viewpoints to consider and paths to take. Be willing to let others make their own choices. In fact, encourage it.
- Be a constant learner. As Aristotle said, “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” There’s almost nothing more humbling than recognizing that you contain a fraction of all knowledge. So commit to learning more. Don’t limit yourself to what’s in books or on the news. Learn about your community, other people, contrasting viewpoints, and different cultures. Ask a lot of questions and be curious for the sake of learning, not for building your case as to why you are right.
- Show others that you value their talents, qualities, and viewpoints. Surround yourself with people who are different than you and appreciate what they bring to the relationship. Defer to other’s judgement. Ask them for their opinions and feedback. Say thank you…a lot.
- Help others, no matter the situation. Everyone needs some kind of help at some point in their lives. Don’t judge or condemn those who are less fortunate or who have bigger problems than you. Treat them as equals…as fellow human beings…because it’s the right thing to do.
- Ask for help. You don’t have to go it alone. Asking for help doesn’t show weakness. It shows that you are humble enough to recognize when you need it and have the courage to ask.
In closing, I’ll leave you with another quote, this time from Gordon B. Hinckley who so eloquently said, “Being humble means recognizing that we are not on Earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.” What would our lives, our communities, and the world be like if we all believed in and lived by this mantra; not just for those we know and love, but for all of humanity?
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