A little humility goes a long way


A friend passed along a juicy bit of gossip she’d heard about me earlier this week. An area resident made a rather uncharitable characterization about me, and my motivations.

My initial reaction was a self-righteous indignation:“How dare he say that about me!” I thought to myself. But after I took a moment to calm down and think the matter through, I decided to leave it alone.

“You know what,” I said. “It’s not true, but the truths about me are far worse than anything some scurrilous gossip could manage.” And I believe this. After all, I’m the one who spends every waking hour with myself. I know the hardness of my own heart, the malice, and the internal idolatry contained within. To quote Hamlet,“I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me.”

Well, as you might imagine, my remarks soon found their way back to the original instigator.

The man explained his view and listened to me give my side of the story. By the end of the conversation, we’d worked out the confusion and shook hands as friends again. Then he blew me away by not only repenting of what he termed as “backbiting” but praised me for my grace in handling the situation.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me, I didn’t relate this story in a “humblebrag” sense of pious posturing  or am I boasting about how “humble” I am. No, there’s a lesson in this — a lesson that has stuck with me.

How many of our quarrels, disputes, and animosity stem from things that are, at best, a confusion of conversation and, at worst, the unnecessary pricking of one’s pride.

Pride is tasteless, colorless, and without size — yet it is one of the hardest things for a man to swallow. An insidious spiritual cancer, pride lies at the root of all sin and self-centeredness, producing a profound darkness wherever it is tolerated.

Not only is pride the “mother of all sins” but it is the villain with a thousands faces. If you think you are not prideful then you are definitely prideful. Humility is beyond our reach—for, if it were a product of reaching, we would instinctively be proud of reaching it. No, humility is a gift — a sign of nobility, sophistication, and grace in a human being.

Our culture promotes individuals who quite frankly are arrogant, loud, and selfish. Confidence is a positive trait, arrogance is not. Unfortunately, the line between the two blurs all too easily.

I will grant that, at times, leaders need to demonstrate a little arrogance. Sometimes, many times, that’s how individuals attain success. Society has a curious way of teaching people to step on others to get ahead. What if we all demonstrated a little more humility? I wonder where we would be.

I know I am often guilty of demonstrating arrogance — I think we all are — but I still don’t understand why humility escapes so many of us so frequently. Especially since so much of life is rooted in our relationships to each other.

There are three traits I have labored to cultivate in my adulthood: a frugality in my indulgences, gentleness with others, and a greater appreciation of my own insignificance.

By being stingy with myself, I have grown more generous; in being careful with others, I have learned the power of empathy in understanding; by coming to terms with how unimportant I am, I am better equipped to lead as well as serve humanity.

In the life of a man, a little humility goes a long way.


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