Following up on my most recent blog post Ego it is a natural progression to do a blog on Humility. Although I covered the topic once before in Low Man Wins there is enough content about Humility that some people make a career out of writing, speaking and coaching on the subject.
Humility has gone out of style. In an era of selfie sticks and Facebook, we are more aware of ourselves than ever before. The concept of ‘self’ is constantly in the forefront our minds as we create our social media pages to paint the flawless picture of how we want others to perceive us.
Humility is vitally important but mostly overlooked in society today. Every coach, manager, or boss will declare that they want teammates or contributors that are humble and hungry. Yet, we rarely put much effort into defining and cultivating the virtue of humility on our teams and in ourselves.
Humble people don’t feel the need to paint a perfect picture of an “ideal life” for others. They can zoom out and objectively assess their merits or shortcomings. Humble people are more concerned with the quality of their effort, the impact of their lives, and the content of their character. Humble people are self-forgetful. Pastor Tim Kelly says, “The truly gospel-humble person is a self-forgetful person whose ego is just like his or her toes ... the toes just work; the ego just works. Neither draws attention to itself.”
Humble people also have true freedom because they have rid themselves of the constant need to compare their accomplishments against those around them. Being released from the burden of ‘comparative scorekeeping’ they can concentrate on self-improvement and their character, instead of wasting their energy worrying about how they stack up against others.
Being involved with sports most of my life, I’ve had the privilege of being surrounded by talented athletes. I’ve been around arrogant as well respectful ones. Those who embodied humility on and off the field made the greatest impact to the team as well as other players. In my role as a character coach, I always advocated for WE guys over ME guys. I carry that same mindset with me as a business leader.
A humble heart is a teachable heart. No one reaches their full potential without the help of others. The humble person welcomes critique and correction from coaches, bosses, teammates and colleagues. Humble people are the “glue guys” on the team that are always thinking about how to make everyone around them better. They know they need to improve and need others to show where and how. The humble person acknowledges the contribution of others and is gracious in defeat while modest in victory. The humble person honors coaches, managers, leaders, and bosses in public as well as private situations.
Warren Buffett, widely considered the most successful investor in the world, still lives the kind of life he did before becoming a billionaire; living in the same Omaha house he bought in 1958 and his disdain for splurging on luxury cars and unnecessary items is legendary.
Before he became one of America’s ultimate success stories, Benjamin Franklin was convinced that he was mediocre. Disgruntled with the disorder of his life and frustrated by his lack of productivity, he set out on a project he called “moral perfection.” The 27-year-old made a list of 12 areas of attitude and action that needed improvement. When he asked a friend to comment on his list, the man “kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation.” Humility was then added as the 13th virtue in his project where he listed its definition as “imitate Jesus and Socrates.”
Humble Pie was one of rock’s early super groups with the presence of such music greats as Steve Marriot and Peter Frampton. The group was worried about the ‘super group’ branding because fan’s high expectations might not always be met. So, they intentionally choose the band’s name to stay modest.
The Church’s leader, Pope Francis, wants to ensure that serving the people is the Church’s goal. He altered his role to “foremost a pastor to the flock, not a king.” He became vocal about the sufferings affecting people including global poverty, the plight of refugees, and even climate change. In his widely publicized visit to the U.S., Pope Francis passed up the chance to lunch with lawmakers, choosing instead to dine with Washington D.C.’s homeless.
In the book of Micah, we read, “What the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8). King Solomon declared, “The result of humility and fear of the LORD is riches, honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4). One verse that epitomizes why we are to be humble is Peter’s exhortation in his first epistle: “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for: “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.”” (1 Peter 5:5).
To me, an even better illustration of humility in Scripture is from Matthew 18:1-5; “At that time the disciples* approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”
The disciples wanted to know: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?” We do not know who asked this question or what triggered it, but I would guess some form of prideful insecurity or arrogance was behind the inquiry. The child is held up as a model for the disciples not because of any supposed innocence, but because of their complete dependence and trust in their parents. So must the disciples be, in respect to God.
We live in a world where ego gets attention, but modesty gets results. Where arrogance makes headlines, but humility makes a difference. Be humble and hungry; be a ‘glue guy’ that approaches the world with child-like openness to see and learn path God has for us.