Being humble

Humility. It’s a gift to be humble. But you’d never know it. Most of the folks I meet are reluctant to admit they are wrong. These same folks will tell you that they aren’t smart, that they aren’t gifted, that they will never be perfect. But to admit they are wrong, that is a bridge too far. It didn’t use to be this way. In movies, books and in taped conversations you would hear people years ago admit they were wrong, but not so much today. I give thanks that young people my daughter’s age can do what my grandparents were never allowed to do, take pride in their gifts, be a little excited by their accomplishments, stand a little taller, straighter and smile with the confidence that they are a “somebody” that God made them special with a purpose and a skill. I am excited and delighted by this change. But with it has come some baggage, and that is to admit your wrong is to say to the world you are a loser.

For the last year Donald Trump has proven this resolve to be successful. In the face of mountains of evidence he remains steadfast that he has made no mistakes. Even George W. Bush, a more humble man to be sure, when asked in 2009 what mistakes he had made as President said “none I can think of”. In our culture we’ve given ourselves permission to be OK with not being perfect but to admit we are wrong is something we dare not admit, especially in public. I think part of it also is that we now have the internet to find proof that all of our theories on life are correct. Whereas years ago someone was bound to trip us up with contrary facts and force us to come to terms with our mistake today we can spend all our time with like-minded people, go to online conversations of people already on our wavelength and read blogs by people who share our point-of-view. We don’t belong to community groups anymore so the chances of interacting with people with a different opinion is small.

Again, I am not being nostalgic, I don’t want to go back, I don’t want a culture that always demands we put ourselves down, “I am not worthy…I am not worthy…” That constant undercutting of self-confidence that our forbearers favoured was not healthy. I am so pleased to see people able today to enjoy their successes and bask in their gifts. But I also believe admitting our faults, mistakes and errors to ourselves, to others, in public, is good for the soul. It is not incompatible to be proud of yourself something done right and to be properly aware of your own mistakes. What this combination does to our soul is to lift up our value and gifts and at the same time remind us we don’t know everything, that our experience is not everyone’s experience, and that we need each other to find the truth.

People often find me confusing for this very reason. I routinely take pride in things I do well. Some think me “big feeling”. I routinely tell anyone and everyone of my litany of flaws, mistake, and screw-ups. Some think I put myself down too much. Which is it? It’s neither. I really don’t think I am special but I do think I am odd and for that reason I want people to know odd people do have value and that everyone messes up, that if I can profess this publicly, they can too.

Yesterday I was wrong about something, I predicted an event would unfold in a certain way and it did not. I have been reflecting on that, I think I erred by allowing the potential emotional response to colour my analysis, which is normally quite good. I think I let possible emotional displays by others mess with me. I learned something. But I would not have learned this if I was not humble.