The other day I was asked to talk about humility. The topic really just stopped me in my thoughts for a bit. What could I say about humility? In my life, I have known a lot about humiliation and humble pie, but what did I really know about humility? I decided to consult some older men I knew who carried with them years of wisdom. The first guy I asked said, “Humility is realizing that I am not God.” The second man said “Son, if you think you have humility then you probably don’t.”
While these were statements I could ponder, they really did not give me enough insight to determine what I was going to speak about on this topic. The definition of humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance. Well, I certainly have confused the low view of myself with humility when in fact it was self-pity. The more I thought about the topic, the more I realized I knew very little about this elusive trait.
I recently had the honor of hearing Allison Massari speak about her near-death experience. She described in great detail the entire ordeal; from the fiery car crash to the months in the hospital and how she battled deep depression as a result of her experience. Allison described the helplessness she felt as she lay in the burn unit and the cruel treatment she experienced by those who saw her appearance once she was well enough to go out in public.
Allison was humble. How do I know that? She has come from near death to being a sought after public speaker, coach, and artist. She exuded humility as she spoke, her words dripped with gratitude. That is when it hit me. Gratitude. A truly humble person has gratitude. If I am full of gratefulness for the gifts and opportunities afforded to me, I will demonstrate humility.
Humility, compassion, and the desire to be of service to others are not independent qualities. These attributes are finely knitted together. As a leader, I confess that I struggle at times with how to hold people accountable and how to show humility at the same time. Many of us are entrusted with major complex initiatives at our companies in which we are called to deliver results. Let’s face it; there are times when we have to take charge and push people to step up. In those times, a leader can come across prideful to those he is holding accountable. The pride others see is a misrepresentation of the motive — or is it? That for me is where the humility check has to come in. What is my motive? Am I holding people’s feet to the fire because I am motivated to deliver what was committed to, or am I motivated by self-preservation? Like I said, I do not know a lot about humility. I am more experienced in the fight against pride and my innate ability to forget that I have a lot to be grateful for.
So I will leave you with my personal humility barometer that I learned from a friend. I try and use this to bounce off all that I say and do. I often fail, but my life is a journey and with each step I am just trying to make it better than the last. Hope you find it useful.
Humility Barometer – T.H.I.N.K.
Is what I am saying and doing?
- T – Thoughtful
- H – Helpful
- I – Intelligent
- N – Necessary
- K – Kind
If not, I should probably not say it.