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Hi, and welcome to today’s podcast. I am your host, Gary Monti, publisher of Aurelius Press (aureliuspress.com).
Today’s podcast is the first in a series dealing with the power of humility. We’ll start with how humility is frequently viewed and confused with humiliation.
It would be an understatement to say in today’s world humility is not one of the desired traits needed for taking care of oneself and getting ahead in life. In fact, humility is often viewed as something for weaklings, those who don’t have what it takes to get the relationships they want and get ahead in the world. I strongly disagree and believe those criticisms are based on confusion humility with humiliation. (more on that later.)
Now, there is a real power associated with humility. In fact, when students or clients ask me what traits must a good leader possess both in personal and professional life I reply, “There are 3 key traits, courage, discipline, and humility.”
1. Courage. Leaders venture into the unknown where the rulebook increasingly loses its relevance. This is a pretty scary place to be. Courage based on the belief in oneself and the team is essential for success to occur. This is true in personal life when a couple are going through the challenges of their relationship. Also, when a parent is dealing with a change or crisis a child may be having.
2. Discipline. There are two aspects associated with discipline. The first one is having a stick-to-itiveness where one continues persevering in the face of discouragement and challenges. The second component has to do with building oneself intellectually and spiritually in order to have the personal tools needed to work through the situation. Think of how a piano student practices and practices until there actions are spinal and their hands just know what to do.
3. Humility. Simply put, humility is knowing what I can and can’t do. It is knowing where my limits are. The importance, then, of humility is understanding there are times when bringing in others for support is critical. This all sounds well and good and I would guess you are in agreement. We need, though to make this real — put some flesh and muscle on the bones of intellectual definitions.
A deeper dive will help where we look at the real challenges as well as the benefits associated with practicing humility.
One of the best ways to bring the concept of humility into focus is to contrast it with its nemesis, humiliation. We can start with their definitions which have some common ground but then diverge significantly.
There are two parts to the definitions of these words. The first part is the same for both and its origins are in the word “humus,” meaning rich earth. This comes from earth-based religions where one is taught to think about their roots, where they come from, who nurtured them, and that we each have a place in the world but it is a small one compared to the broader universe and is not necessarily at the center. Consequently, the first part of the definitions of humility and humiliation is “to go to a small place.”
That’s tough enough as it is. This is the 21st century. Who wants to go to a small place?! “I want it all!” “Me first!” Those are what is encouraged in order to get ahead when It’s important to win at all costs, dominate, and control. Let the other guy be humble or humiliated!
What about the second part of the definitions? This is where it gets interesting and possibly confusing.
In the case of humility I choose to go to a small place while with humiliation I am pushed there by somebody else. Can you feel the confusion? First off, I am going to a small place and, second, my options are to either go there myself or be pushed by someone else. This doesn’t sound very good.
For example, your boss might give you a job that requires 20 hours of work and you only have two hours available. You’re honest about the situations and the job doesn’t get completed. (That’s humility – you know your limits.)
If your boss is out of sorts there’s a chance you’ll be read the riot for not getting work done and might be embarrassed or have it show up on your job review. You are at risk for feeling small after all this. (That’s humiliation.)
This is where your eyes can cross! You know you’ve been humble with yourself by doing a gap analysis between the number of hours the job takes (20) versus number of hours you have available (two). On the other hand, though, you’ve just been humiliated publicly by your boss.
So the questions are, “What do you do?” and “Why would I bother with humility?”
First, what to do.
There are two options here, reacting or responding.
With reactions the individual grab onto the situation (and, figuratively, my boss) and won’t let go. Now I am locked into the negative feelings which leads to a high state of emotionality caused by replaying the event over and over and over. This is what resentment is, i.e., a re-sensing of the situation.
An interesting aspect of the human psyche is the heart does whatever the brain focuses on. By replaying the situation continually in my mind my heart says, “Oh, we are focusing on bullying today. Okay, I can do that!” I then go home kick the dog, yell at the kids, etc. You know the drill. So the outcome of that resentment is the equivalent of sitting there stabbing myself in the heart and eventually those around me. I become the object of my focus, the very thing I feel is terrible.
The other option is responding. The response is summed best by the Dalai Lama who said, “when someone humiliates you, practice humility. Let go of them and do what you can do within your limits and only focus on that.”
Now you might be wondering what that means. What the Dalai Lama is saying is you’re just one person you only have a small place in the universe, you can only do so much so why not just let go of your boss and do what you can. Instead of resenting be productive in your own way. Be nurturing in your own way. Be caring of others in your own way.
So, in conclusion, there is a real value in being humble. That value is you can keep yourself and stop the brutality of humiliation by not hurting yourself or those around you. Obviously, practicing humility is not for the faint of heart. But there is a real payoff. We’ll look at that in future podcasts.
Well, that concludes this first part of the Power of Humility. If you have a
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