Lately, I’ve been applying my thoughts toward humility.
I once had a conversation with a supervisor. We were talking about a group of people whose beliefs differed from hers when I said something in their defense and she said, ‘But I am not judging them.’ Her comment floored me in its humility when I realized that I had assumed that, perhaps, she’d been judging them when, in fact, she hadn’t.
I understood at that very moment why I was, in this case, an employee and she my superior. It wasn’t necessarily because of rank; it was, rather, because of the humility that she displayed.
It was a lesson in humility.
Another such lesson happened when one of my colleagues—a member of senior management—confessed to me that he’d been at work since 4:30 a.m. in order to complete some urgent reports that had to be delivered that day. It was a critical matter that, had the reports not been completed, could have resulted in dire consequences for the organization. I was awestruck by his dedication, his humility. Would you go to work at 4:30 a.m. when your start time is four hours later? Would you make such a sacrifice if you were called to?
Although they weren’t supposed to be religious experiences—and I do not qualify them as such, the truth is that these two lessons in humility had a ‘religious’ quality to them. They were ‘holy’ moments when I’d felt that someone had spoken or acted in a way that made me feel the transcendent. They reminded me of Rudolf Otto’s book, The Idea of the Holy. There was a numinous feel to the lessons. There was something that made me literally shut my mouth in awe.
Synonyms for humility are: ‘modesty, humbleness, modestness, meekness, lack of pride, lack of vanity, diffidence and unassertiveness.’[i]
What I am attempting to describe, however, is more than that. It is an attitude that puts others first in an unexpectedly touching way. It’s a quality or response that immediately conveys respect and is the opposite of self-centeredness or egotism. It is spoken in an honest and touching manner and puts to the lie any idea of falseness. It has to do with using our minds and hearts to serve others rather than ourselves. It has to do with duty, too, toward something, or someone, greater than ourselves, greater than our personalities.
These two lessons in humility ‘killed’ me. They helped me understand how I could be a better person by judging less and being willing to go the extra mile in a work situation. They helped me understand that I am part of something much bigger than myself.
The lessons’ talk-and-acts instantly caused me to compare my values with those of my interlocutors. The conversations made me feel that I should give more and be more. I was humbled.
Teacher, show me the way
Although my colleagues had absolutely no idea how their talk-acts affected me, they demonstrated to me how I could be more humble, ready to go the extra mile, and be a better person. Their talk-acts were part of their personalities. There was nothing new about that. What was new was that I discovered who they really were and how I could be more like that.
In order to move ahead on the job and in life, we need to humble ourselves. Not in a false or phony way; but in a genuine way. Doing so is what I believe will propel us to the Next Level.
Let’s Take it to the Next Level,
[i] Humility, Google, accessed online on 23 June 2019, https://www.google.com/search?q=humility&oq=humility&aqs=chrome..69i57.2202j0j1&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8.