What is the Real Importance of Humility in the Life

What is true humility? Literally speaking, it means a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness and comes from the Latin word humilis. A humble person does not think less of himself; he simply thinks of himself less. According to the Bible, a humble person is defined by characteristics: He is silent, He is in control, He is a true leader, He serves willingly, He is correctable, He is gentle, He is a pursuer of greatness, and He is small before his God and Universe. Humility means putting God and others ahead of one’s selfish interests. Humility is a human characteristic, where one realizes their own insignificance in comparison to other people or circumstances. Learning to be humble is a lifelong journey. Personally, I have experienced many ups and downs where I have been reminded of one of the most well-known passages from the Bible, spoken by Jesus, known as the “Golden Rule”. It has been summarized to be, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This small phrase holds a large amount of wisdom and advice. In order to receive love, one must give love first. If one wants to gain respect, one must give respect to others first. As a child, we are taught right from wrong but are we really taught to be confident without being arrogant and can respect others while maintaining self-respect? Our environment in which we are raised has a major impact on growing up as a humble person. We experience mistakes and poor choices in hopes we learn from them as a child. Respectfulness, kindness, generosity, compassion, and patience are virtues of humility. Not everyone is going to be a humble person 100% of the time. When one can show that one is learning to be humble in early years, there is hope that humility will be sustained for life.

Moving into the adolescent years, one begins becoming more social. One becomes more active in sports, and other social groupings, and learning the team mindset. Sports especially, teach teamwork and cooperation and playing as an individual is not going to lead to being successful. The ability to put others first and letting one’s guard down can lead to becoming a good person. Although it is challenging, striving to be humble 100% of the time, is where you find the ability to own one’s mistakes and admit to one’s faults. The difference is someone who is humble lies in their ability to choose between doing something for the praise of others or for their own experience. Humility doesn’t feed off the compliments from others or tagged pictures of award ceremonies; it trudges through failures with open minds and outstretched patience. Humility doesn’t put its nose in the air, nor does it stem from self-pride. Humility branches from the ability to say, “Thank you”. Many people find it difficult to practice humility. One way to be humble is by acknowledging that you may not have the answers to all the questions and that you have a lot to learn. By doing so, you automatically open the doors of knowledge and are on a road of lifelong learning. By gaining more knowledge, you gain confidence and self-respect. True humility is intelligent self-respect.

As a young adult, one is faced with mature challenges that are increasingly more difficult. Beginning a career, family, or both, humility is a trait that one will need to overcome adversities to be successful. When beginning your first career, one is the low man on the totem pole and will be challenged regularly from a variety of entities. Rising to leadership, it is important, if not necessary, to gain the respect of co-workers in standing by them and fight for them in uncomfortable situations. Passing the buck or blaming others is not how one supports and protects the team. In many situations, learning by example is a predominant means in learning humility in leadership. Following a leader who exhibits humility, it is likely one will in turn show these same traits. When given a task and directed to complete it, and one either gets busy or fails to complete it, one must assume responsibility of the failure and own it. When finding oneself falling behind on a task, communicating that one may be over-tasked or request an extension, shows strength and humility that one is willing to take ownership. Not communicating and allowing the deadline to pass, shows weakness and a lack of and sense of ownership. The problem is the task will always surface and still need to be completed, but leadership will see the non-acceptance of the lead position one is holding. Humility keeps a person firm on the ground and makes him aware of future goals that are pending.

As individuals, we have several goals in life. So, it is important that we do not lose focus once we achieve a goal. Many people have the misconception that humility and modesty have a negative impact on a person’s confidence level. This is not true. In fact, studies have shown that humility is not equivalent to low self-esteem. In fact, humility is about focusing on the unknown instead of the known. So, a modest person instead of gloating and boasting of one’s past achievements, will focus on tasks one needs to complete in the future, of which the outcome is unknown. A family man with children is faced regularly with new challenges. As a husband and father, he must continue to evolve and make changes to himself so he can be successful in both marriage and parenthood. When one starts a family, one is no longer a “lone ranger” as one must think about one’s spouse and children first. When one makes the decision to create a family, one is choosing to assume more lives-it is no longer about one anymore. It is all about the family and what is good for the family. When one wants to buy that ‘new toy’ one must consider the affect it will have on the entire family. It is imperative to stand as a united front as a father and husband in making decisions with one’s family, and the good of the family must always come first. Being able to humble oneself and recognize that there is a bigger picture, takes some learning, but working side by side with one’s spouse and considering their feelings(and thoughts) are good signs of a truly humble man. One must be the father one’s kids look up to and one’s spouse loves. If you cannot express humility in your day to day situations with your family, other problems and conflicts may arise that could have been avoided. One can choose to be a leader or choose to be a boss; the difference and downfall of being a boss, is that a boss is not always an example to follow.

Bosses tend to use the word “I” whereas leaders gravitate towards “us”. Leaders will always say “we”; they praise in public, they are a coach, they motivate, and they bring the team up versus the team pulling them up as with a boss. Bosses say “GO”; they command, they take undeserved credit, they use people, they place blame (rather than accepting), they inspire fear, and they drive employees versus coaching like true humble leader. In the military life where it seems though pride is handed through the reception of colored ribbons, medals, and framed papers of accomplishment, being humble can be hard. As a small child we are taught to seek to climb the ladder of success; we put one foot above the other and visualize our future self with a revered title of “you made it!”. All the while overlooking the fact that very often, we owe our success to the people around us. Take notice when in countless offices where framed accolades hang-reflecting the hard work and countless caffeinated nights of the designee. I have friends, even my wife, that have walls of soccer/sport, school, career awards, each displayed from year-to-year like a yearbook of past nerves and screaming joy; even a room in my home is designed with my awards depicting my journey with the U. S. Navy. However, it’s imperative to remember that varsity jacket letters, glassy plaques, metallic awards, and ribbons do not mean much if humility is lacking. If someone offers a “good job” or “congrats”, many see this as a chance to yet again share their own achievement to revel in the glory just one more time. The humbler person would offer a simple, deep-rooted “thank you”. With each success, it’s not just perseverance, talent, or skillset that are being tested, but humility as well.

Everyday a leader in the Navy can wake up and say, “I’m going to lead and motivate today”. It is a choice one makes and with that, it is the better choice to be a humble leader. One is given two ears and one mouth for a reason; leaders will use their ears and mind before they open their mouth. The decision one makes is going to be the decision one must lay their head down at night and live with. Being humble as a leader in the Navy will make one much more approachable, and being an approachable leader is a successful leader. In retrospect, I prefer to be the leader that others can say, “…man, Petty Officer is a great person. I can go to him for anything, and I know he will make it happen”. When one sees the people around them, one doesn’t usually see their shadow outlined by each of their achieved goals and successes. One sees them for the kindness, humor, and intelligence that lives in their hearts. When one congratulates them for going above and beyond, they shake their heads and say, “ Thank you! With the grace of someone who truly learned from failure but doesn’t live in its confining walls”.

We live on the short golden string of life with our arms stretched out by our sides to help keep our balance, and when we look down, we don’t want to just see our man-made accomplishments. We want to see the moments of kindness that has bloomed from the shiny as well as the not so shiny moments. In conclusion, it is important for me to make sure I take time to think and listen to my junior Sailor’s on a day to day basis. As a leader in the Navy, I hope to be able to touch at least one Sailor’s heart per day and make sure that they are supported and have all they need to succeed, above the needs of my own. By showing more humility, I will be able to put people first before myself or my feelings of that day. I would hope to earn the respect of both my junior Sailor’s as well as my Senior Enlisted, always making sure I am a humble leader and motivator!

10 October 2020
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