Many years ago I read a quote which has stuck with me through the years. Unfortunately I cannot remember, or find, the name of its author.
The quote read: Humility is the exclusive domain of those who are self-secure, pride is the exclusive domain of all others.
The dictionary defines humility as: The quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc. Our last two discussions have been on The Habit of Humility and I received numerous calls and emails for people wishing to share the details of those they know who have done great things and have remained humble throughout.
I have heard stories of bravery, generosity, volunteering, neighbourliness and endless acts of kindness and it is indeed heartwarming to get a sense of how many people out there who do great things simply because great things need to be done and do so modestly with not only no expectation of reward but also with no desire for recognition.
We are all too familiar with the blowhards of the world. Those who magnify their accomplishments and whose stories, much like the fisherman who caught a tadpole which, after 50 retellings of the story, had turned into a great white shark, get bigger and bolder each time they are repeated.
I am a huge believer in the need and power of recognition. I’m all in favour of showering praise on those who are deserving, but like many of us, I too have become disenchanted by those who seize every opportunity to brag about all they have done and the brilliance with which they have done it.
The Habit of Humility, much like the habit of gratitude, adds to character while taking away nothing.
Many years ago I attended a seminar taught by a man who made a statement so profound that, like the quote in the opening paragraph, has stayed with me for more than 30 years.
He said, “In life, take everything you do very seriously. Take your education seriously, your career seriously, most importantly take your family and your health very seriously but whatever you do, no matter what, or how powerful the temptation, don’t ever, ever, ever take yourself seriously.”
He went on to explain what he called his Theory of Truth. It went something like this. “We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all do stupid things. We all say inappropriate things. None of us are perfect. So it is important that we accept ourselves for who we are and once we realize and understand how imperfect we are, humility becomes an easy habit to acquire.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously stated:
And the devil did grin, for his daring sin
Is pride that apes humility
And Mason Cooley, a renowned academic and aphorist summed it up with “Arrogance invites ruin; humility receives benefits.”
The Habit of Humility is important because those who practice it understand that while they know they’ve done great things, they are not made better by promoting them. By knowing in their hearts they have done what is right and what is good is all the reward they need.
The Habit of Humility tells more about the greatness of its practitioners than boasting ever will.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.