If you’re humble and you know it… well…

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I find humility to be an interesting attribute because, if you think you have it, you almost certainly don’t.  It’s one of those things that others notice about someone else while the person in question generally remains oblivious.

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The thing about humility is that you don’t become humble by trying to be humble.  You become humble by taking the focus off yourself.  That’s easier said than done because most people like attention whether they admit it or not.  I’m not saying attention is bad, in and of itself… it’s how you handle it.  I think that’s why the more attractive, charismatic, famous or popular a person is, the more difficult it is for them to be humble.

It takes tremendous discipline to not believe your own press.

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I am a huge C.S. Lewis fan.  He had the gift of clarity.  So, not surprisingly, I love his definition of humility.

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He expands that definition to include this truth…

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

Humility always looks up.

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I don’t know about you but I’ve met lots of nice, kind and/or caring people.  But I’ve rarely met truly humble people.  Humble people touch your life in a deep and unique way.  You don’t forget them.  It’s also not unusual to find that humble people have experienced deep hardship, failure and/or loss in their lives.

Humility is often born from great difficulty.

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I want to be humble.  I want to stand out from the rest because of who I am as a person.  I want to be secure in who I am as a person but not focused on myself.  I want to give more than I take.  I want to be the opposite of self-centred, selfish, and egocentric.  I don’t want pride in my life.  I want my life to reflect Jesus, the most humble – and only perfect – person to ever walk the face of the earth.

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According to Mother Teresa – an extraordinary example of humility – these are a few of the ways we can practice being humble:

Speak as little as possible about one’s self.
Mind one’s own business.
Don’t desire to manage other people’s affairs.
Avoid curiosity.
Accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.
Pass over the mistakes of others.
Accept insults and injuries.
Accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.
Be kind and gentle even under provocation.
Never stand on one’s dignity.
Always choose the hardest.

The bad news?

I realize just how far I am from being humble.

The good news?

That realization may well be the seeds of humility.

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That’s great… or is it?

Growing up, my marks in school tended to reflect my interest in any given subject.  I either did really well or I barely scraped by.  History was one subject where I barely scraped by, in large part because it seemed to be just about one war after another.  The only saving grace were the times the teacher focused on individuals.  Even then, I confess I still didn’t pay close attention.  However, one thing I did take notice of was how many people were referred to as “the Great”.  The ones who readily come to mind are Catherine the Great, Alexander the Great, Herod the Great, and Peter the Great.

I didn’t understand then – and I don’t understand now – exactly what those individuals did to deserve such a moniker.  Oh I know they supposedly made significant contributions to society as a whole but did that really justify being bestowed such a significant title?  And, in the case of Herod – the king of Judea at the time of Jesus’ birth – his cruelty and brutality were at distinct odds with anything having to do with goodness, much less greatness.

It makes me think of people I think were/are great.  People like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Florence Nightingale, Todd Beamer (think 9/11).  It also makes me think that if people truly are great, you don’t have to give them a special title to point out that fact.  And, that the things that make people great are the things from the inside out, not from the outside in.

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I have no doubt that the truly great people throughout history would be the last to ever think that of themselves.  The last to ever even consider accepting such a title.  Granted, in the cases where such a title was formally bestowed, it was generally posthumously but my suspicion is they were probably people who would have been happy to receive such an honour.  Perhaps even think they deserved it.

In my opinion, many of the greatest people in history have been those who were/are unsung heroes.  People who consistently did the right thing when no one was watching.  People who never blew their own horn (to use a quite possibly antiquated expression).  People who made a difference in other people’s lives through selfless acts of service.  People who sacrificed their lives so others could live.

I believe that list is a lengthy one, which means that greatness isn’t as rare an attribute as some might think (particularly those who think of themselves as great).  The ones who attain it are the ones who didn’t aim for it because it isn’t about the title.

It seems to me that…

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