Humility, a Worthy Pursuit


What quality do you admire most in others? What do you admire most about yourself? Maybe it’s kindness, generosity or a sense of humour.  The quality that I deeply admire, and strive hard to embody, is humility. And it’s tough.

I’m always deeply impressed by people who are authentically humble. I admire those who are selfless; who don’t concern themselves with what others think of them; and who have an honest, accurate, opinion of themselves.

I’m not talking here about those who exhibit what I’d call false humility. These people are those who are always talking about how horrible a job they do. They are always putting themselves down. This isn’t humility. In fact, it’s often just a weird sort of pride. While these people express humble thoughts, what they are really saying is, “please validate me and tell me how great I am”. That’s not what I’m striving for.

I’ve struggled to practice humility for a long time. Struggled not because I think I’m great, but because I work in a job that requires a certain amount of self-promotion. Speaker and author bios are traditionally packed with every good thing about someone without any mention of their negative traits. If you hear this read enough times, and read enough testimonials from happy clients, you can start to believe your own press. I’m always working to ensure that I don’t start believing “the hype”.

I also struggle with the other end of the spectrum. I’m often tempted to be overly critical of myself. In some twisted way, I think that I think of myself in purely negative terms, that somehow I am being humble and being a better person. While pride is easily recognized, this opposite fault is difficult to see and yet I think many people struggle with it.

People will an exaggeratedly low opinion of themselves don’t stand out like the proud. They are more difficult to see as a result. They blend in. In face, they often go completely unrecognized because they are overly quiet and shy. They tend not to think of their ideas as worthy of being shared.

The key with humility, like most everything, is balance, and finding that balance is important, not only for yourself, but for those who surround you. The best way to do this, in my humble opinion (pun intended), is to try to gain an accurate opinion of yourself, your abilities and your weaknesses. It’s not humble to say you are bad at something that you are good at, and it’s not humble to say you are great at something you are bad at. Humility is honesty. Strive after that.

Humility is a worthy pursuit, even if you never completely attain it, striving for it is still good. As Proverbs says, “A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”

The true paradox of the pursuit of humility is that if you ever think you’ve attained it, you have likely just lost it:-)