What does it mean to be humble? Is it all about self-effacing behaviour and language, a way of being and speaking that reinforces your belief that the other is as important as you? Is it about making it clear you don’t think yourself “stuck-up” as some of my old school chums used to refer to folks of means? Does it mean putting the brakes on any kind of bragging or boasting? Are the humble people those who never allow a compliment to be given, who forbid praise, who believe they are not worthy of mention?
I think that once again we have allowed piety to prevail and forgotten the deeper reasons for emphasizing the virtue of humility. Remember that Jesus spoke very critically of pious people who walked around with sackcloth and ashes on their heads for all to see how contrite they were. There is a false humility, where one’s humility becomes yet another way to draw attention and be one of the righteous few.
At its core humility is the assertion that others have something to teach me, wisdom to share with me, that I do not have it all figured out. For me the opposite of humility is not grovelling but rather arrogance. My daughter and I share the same difficulty in dealing with know-it-alls. These folks are easy to spot, they are the ones who always know the answer, who are the first to tell people in search of an answer that they know, and then proceed to not only tell you the answer but then to give you advice on how to apply said answer.
I am a loud and self-confident person, someone with opinions, someone not shy about expressing a point-of-view. But I also know what I don’t know, which is pretty much everything. I know politics, religion and sports, the latter only up till the mid 1980’s. Otherwise I know nothing. My wife and daughter will back me up on this, I really know nothing else. So it is easy to be humble, I could not survive without learning from others.
I also find it is an easy way to begin a conversation, tell the other I don’t know something and then sit back and let them fill me with knowledge and wisdom. One thing about being someone like me, you get fairly astute at discerning who really does know and who does not. There are many advice-givers whom I will immediately put their wisdom into practice and many more where I “smile and nod”.
What really makes me sad is how many people I know who are lonely and without friends fail to understand that one of the most effective ways to make friends is to learn from the wisdom of others. People often assume the reason I have so many social contacts is that I am an extrovert. Not true! I know a lot of lonely extroverts. I make friends because I am interested in others and make it a point to be open to learning something from them.
I am a big mouth, loud and often annoyingly opinionated. Guilty as charged! I also talk too much and listen too little. But I do take interest in others, my humility is expressed in the belief that others know more than me and have something to teach me. You’d be amazed…