The Power of Humility
Words have enormous power. They can make us erupt into laughter or bring tears to our eyes. They can influence, inspire, manipulate and shock. They can build, and they can destroy. Some words have different effects on different people. One such word is humility. It is one of those words that are seldom in neutral gear. Some, like me, love the word and all it stands for. More
Words have enormous power. They can make us erupt into laughter or bring tears to our eyes. They can influence, inspire, manipulate and shock. They can build, and they can destroy. Some words have different effects on different people. One such word is humility. It is one of those words that are seldom in neutral gear. Some, like me, love the word and all it stands for. Some almost fear it and interpret it synonymously with lack of self-confidence or timidity. Humility is one of the virtues often mentioned in our everyday life. But what is humility? And is it a virtue? The dictionary defines humility as modesty, lacking pretence, not believing that you are superior to others. An ancillary definition includes: "Having a lowly opinion of oneself, meekness".
We often confuse humility with timidity. Humility is not clothing ourselves in an attitude of self-abasement or self-denigration. Humility is all about maintaining our pride about who we are, about our achievements, about our worth – but without arrogance. It is the antithesis of excessive, arrogant pride which often leads to the derailment of some corporate heroes, as it does with the downfall of the tragic hero in Greek drama. It is about a quiet confidence without the need for a meretricious selling of our wares. It is about being content to let others discover the layers of our talents without having to boast about them. It is a lack of arrogance, not a lack of aggressiveness in the pursuit of achievement.
An interesting dichotomy is that, often, the higher people rise, the more they have accomplished, the higher the humility index. Those who achieve the most brag the least, and the more secure they are in themselves, the more humble they are. There is also an understated humility of everyday people we work with who have the ability to get the job done without drawing attention to themselves. Witness the employee who is working at his computer into the late hours, purely motivated by a keen sense of duty, the executive assistant who stays after 5:30pm on a Friday night in an empty office to await a courier, or the manager who quietly cancels an important personal event to fly out of town to attend to the company's business. This is akin to the philanthropist who gives an anonymous donation.
Humility is also a meta-virtue. It crosses into an array of principles. For example, we can safely declare that there cannot be authenticity without humility. Why? Because, there is always a time in a leader's journey when one will be in a situation of not having all the answers. Admitting this and seeking others' input requires some humility. Another mark of a leader who practices humility is his or her treatment of others. Such leaders treat everyone with respect regardless of position. “The sign of a gentleman is how he treats those who can be of absolutely no use to him”.
Something interesting happens, too, when we approach situations from a perspective of humility: it opens us up to possibilities, as we choose open-mindedness and curiosity over protecting our point of view. We spend more time in that wonderful space of the beginner's mind, willing to learn from what others have to offer. We move away from pushing into allowing, from insecure to secure, from seeking approval to seeking enlightenment. We forget about being perfect and we enjoy being in the moment.
In this book, we will take a critical look at the subject matter of humility, the false assumptions people often make regarding it, and how it is an important quality for everyone to have. We will also provide you tips on how to exercise humility in your everyday life. Happy reading!
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