Why am I drawn to this topic? First of all, it is the type of person that I LOVE to be around. Also it’s the person I strive to be. In addition, it might not be the easiest balance to achieve perfectly all the time without effort. The effort does NOT come from consciously trying to BE humble, or BE confident. Those two qualities are cultivated by taking a good look at your abilities, realizing where they came from, realizing where you need work, and realizing the strengths of those around you. This also comes from a desire to cultivate strengths in those around you. The humility comes from a willingness to serve. The confidence comes from actively trying to serve in the capacities that God has blessed you with abilities in. Let’s start with some quotes from historical figures on the topic of humility or lack thereof. I will approach this topic from a secular standpoint to start with and then to switch its spiritual application.
Confucius (551–479 BC) said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”
Socrates (470-399 BC) felt he was wise despite feeling that he didn’t fully understand anything, as the wisdom lay in being aware that he knew nothing.
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) said, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
Charles Darwin (1809–1882), said, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.”
Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), said, “One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.”
So where do we fall short? And why do we fall short of this perfect balance? First of all, we inaccurately assess our own abilities most of the time. Psychologists in 1999 studied the Dunning–Kruger effect, a cognitive bias wherein persons of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. There is an inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude. Without the self awareness, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence. Dunning and Kruger’s hypothesis was “that people, at all performance levels, are equally poor at estimating their relative performance, and poor performers do not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve.” In summary, the people with the least experience and skill thought that they knew the most, and then with increasing experience, people realized how little they actually knew. At the genius level, people did recognize their competence, but still valued themselves as less than the confidence of the ignoramus. I bring this to your attention because this study indicates that we are flawed in our assessment of our abilities and you are not alone in that. This is something that you can overcome with a shift in your perspective.
Often, leaders are not humble. But what makes the best leader? If humility is such an attractive trait, why aren’t more leaders humble? Certain individuals feel that humility is a weakness or sign of inadequacy. Arrogance and pride actually bind this person from growth and repulse those who are drawn to humility. Without the barrier of inflated pride, a person is more open to learn, explore, and be open to the ideas of others. A humble person listens to the needs of others and is empathetic to the success and failures of others. They seek to understand others. They believe in others and encourage them. A good leader or coach increases the confidence in his team by instilling the ‘you can do it’ attitude. A good leader, in turn, will gain the respect of those he leads, and in addition benefit from all the talents and gifts that those under him/her are willing to share. Because his people are more confident, they will also be more courageous in sharing their gifts without fear. This will make any organization stronger, whether that be a business, a sports team, or a country.
You see lots of photos of my family rock climbing here. My daughter was crying one day because her brothers were teasing her about being weak. I tried to explain firstly that she wasn’t weak, and that she possessed her own strengths in other areas. The very next day we went indoor rock climbing. She was the child that made it to the top of every wall and almost every path of rocks set. She is lean, with long limbs, and is able to reach and shift weight naturally to scale the walls. I saw her confidence in these skills grow every day. We climbed for five days that week. In that week, both my boys increased their strength and skill in climbing each type of wall as well. Some of their abilities came from sheer strength in the upper body. In addition, their fearlessness when being harnessed has much to do with their partner on the ground (usually myself or climbing gym staffer) who has the critical role of belaying.
Every roped climber clings to the wall trusting their partner on the ground. This belayer skillfully handles the rope and can be relied upon to catch a fall every time the need arises. My children also practiced bouldering without a harness, but with a thick pad waiting at the bottom of the artificial rock walls. In both cases they were free to grow without fear of injury. They still had to overcome the physical demands, the heights, their own perceptions of what they could do. This can be likened to a good leader, who holds the people within a protected environment. Within that safety the people can grow and challenge themselves while also learning from the maturity and wisdom of their leader.
To become humble the concentration of your efforts and heart must lie in compassion, empathy, vulnerability and service. You will gain humility when you see that your life is part of the larger plan of God and you realize that you received all from God in the first place. Realize it is your duty is to love neighbor as yourself, and God. When you realize that God loves you, you are dear to Him, and that He gave you all those special talents that you bring to the table, this will bring true confidence. When you are good at something you are able to teach this, and share this. You are able to serve in this capacity, not as an arrogant dictator but as a servant leader. Remember the two examples that we have been given; Lord as teacher and Master, servant leader, and the Evil one, who as the highest angel refused to serve, is filled with pride, and resents Man’s divine attributes and destiny. The challenge is obvious. Be brutally honest and admit your weakness to yourself. Then give Glory to God for all your blessings and talents, and then share those confidently with those who are eager to embrace your gifts. Confidence arises when you are clear about your purpose and you passionately pursue this with empathy. When you focus not on yourself, but on the cause, you can build something meaningful.
Lord, if it’s true you use broken things, I’m all yours.
It’s never the perfect … it’s the humble and the weak.
Copyright 2017 Marya Jauregui