The Weekly Dream: Humility: Willing to be wrong, unafraid to Fail
“A Wise man knows he knows nothing at all”
“A cup that is full is useless”
While I was preparing for this article, I had a strange dream. I entered my kitchen after a long day of work. I was exhausted and all I wanted was a cup of water. I opened my cabinet and the first cup I pulled out has an unidentified jello-like substance in it. I think, “That is odd”, and proceed to pull another cup from the cabinet. Yet, the same substance is in the cup. Upon further inspection, each and every cup in my house is full of this mysterious liquid. I believe someone has played a sick joke on me and it is not funny. Out of sheer desperation, I cup my hands under the faucet and drink from there. But that still does not answer two fundamental questions: “What is it and how did it get in every single one of my cups?”
A lot of people are like those cups in my dream: they are unusable because they are full of everything but the right thing. It takes tremendous humility to constantly give and empty yourself in order to receive more. I know I struggle with it daily.
This concept of humility is a hard concept to grasp, and it really is not a popular subject. I did not expect it to be in this society full of self-promotion and inflated self-importance. My preliminary research yielded unfavorable results in that it was associated with such “weak” words such as modesty and submission. In fact, the major context that spoke of humility favorably was religion. Thus, I had to “fill in the gaps.”
A Paradigm Shift?
If most of the world’s religions stress humility as a pathway to the Higher Power, why is it so widely disdained? Perhaps we have a misunderstanding of what true humility is. People think that being humble is self-abasement, bowing, and scraping and the like. This is not true humility, it is a form affectation. So, allow me to submit my own definition of humility: A proper and right relationship in regards to yourself and others. Now let us differentiate this from arrogance and low self-esteem.
Arrogance is when you are only able to see your positive qualities and ignoring your faults at the expense of not recognizing the gifts and uniqueness of others. When you are in an arrogant mindset, you cannot receive anything because you are too busy transmitting. Either you are listening or you are talking. You can’t do both. So ask yourself, “Am I transmitting when I should be receiving and being open?”
Low self-esteem is only recognizing the gifts and uniqueness of others at the expense of your own. But humility allows you to celebrate the uniqueness and talents of yourself, while acknowledging those things that make other people special. In knowing this, you can be confident, because you know your strengths, but constantly work to learn from your weaknesses. Humility makes you want to serve.
It hurts doesn’t it? A hard pill to swallow.
Daily, I am humble by life, experience and interactions with others. I feel I have so much to learn and a long way to go (grad school has been especially humbling). But I am thankful to have the opportunity to learn and grow. And I feel blessed that I finally have begun to recognize this fact. However, few of us truly can grow and move on because our concept of self is eggshell fragile. It is truly a sign of maturity to be able to objectively look at yourself and also allow others to do so and tell you where you can be better. I know for myself, learning how to take constructive criticism is still a daily battle for two reasons: 1.) I often only want to hear the good about myself (I do relapse from time to time) and 2.) It is hard to trust the motives of others.
As for the first thing, that, as previously stated, is a maturity issue. But the second is a little deeper. People can be petty and mean, and seek to disrupt your inner equilibrium. Therefore, It is always important to only take into account those things which our spoken in the right spirit. I call this, “checking your sources” because not everyone’s opinion is worth listening to, not everybody has “good sense.” If we constantly go about trying to change ourselves for everybody and anybody, we become people pleasers. And the question becomes, “Are we pleasing the right people?” It is a privilege to allow others to speak into your life and effect change, and it should not be taken lightly.
Personally, I informally formed a small committee of individuals whom I allowed tell me about myself, and I would listen to them. They do not know they are on this committee, but it exists for me nonetheless. Everyone else, I might listen to, but their opinion did not weigh as much as those on this committee of trusted loved ones. If someone told me something I did not like or agree with, I tabled it to the committee for their review. If they said the same thing, then I knew I needed to take a look at myself.
Need some help?
In pursuing this right relationship with yourself and others, it is important to come to some realizations. One, this is a process and it will take time. You are not going to get everything in the first clip, everything is not going to workout smoothly. Therefore, do not get frustrated with yourself or give up. Stick to the process and press on. This could apply to any number of things, but we will keep it in this context.
Next, be accountable. It is important to not be afraid to be wrong or to fail because that is how you learn. In our society, mistakes are discouraged rather than encouraged. But how did we learn to walk? By falling and getting up and refining our technique. How did we get potty trained? These elementary examples illustrate exactly what John Maxwell says, that “failure is the price of success.” When I first met my boy Garlin, one of the first things I had to adjust to in our friendship is that he would tell me when I was being illogical or when I was wrong. Right then and there, no delay. But I trusted our friendship, and it has made me a better person. In fact, now that is a trait that I seek and respect from all of my close associates.
Also, when going through correction, look for concrete ways to refine your process. Keep the definition of insanity in mind. No one fails just to fail, no one goes through humility for the sake of staying there. You fail so you can learn to win. You humble yourself so you know how to handle success. I feel that this is universal law.
In closing, start failing and adjusting, and your success is right around the corner.
Be that empty cup and fill yourself with the right things. Once you are filled, pass it on to others.
A closed mouth does not get fed, but it can become wise.
“Attempting to sustain truth without humility is doomed instead to become an “arrogant caricature” of the truth.”
“A wise person acts without claiming the results as his; he achieves his merit and does not rest (arrogantly) in it: — he does not wish to display his superiority.”
–Tao Te Ching
Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas
Question of the Week: How do you stay grounded?