1/29/2012 11:40:00 pm

Humilitas

Posted by Tom French |


On Australia Day I decided to read a book. I read this one. The whole thing. All 183 pages. I know, I'm pretty much a book reading demigod, the freak child of Socrates and Mrs Zeus. Aside from how awesome I am with my computer-like, pentium II speed of comprehension of words, the book was about humility which I didn't really need to know about. I read that book like I would read a book about thrifty home maintenance of secondhand washing machines, it's an interesting insight into a skill which is only important for those people who have much to be humble about.

Actually, surprisingly, it did feel relevant. For one, I had been struck during the week but how incredibly prideful and stupid I am. For two, my constant desire for recognition and glory is always tempting me to self-congratulations, which is especially tempting in the line of work that I'm in. Though I guess, pride is not exclusive to the arena of those who find themselves regularly standing in front of large groups of people.

The book is a pretty easy read. It's written in the style of a leadership book and it seems to be pitched at business leaders. I had just finished Great by Choice which is also a business leadership book (it was pretty fantastic by the way), so I felt like I was in the right genre frame of mind. It wasn't going hard on the Jesus stuff like a lot of Dickson's stuff (not that going hard on Jesus stuff is bad), though Jesus did make a solid appearance.

Dickson leads us through the history of humility as a virtue, gives the reader some historical examples, tells us why humility is a good idea and finally gives us ideas on how to be cultivating humility. One of the things that struck me reading the book is how much more you admire humble people over proud people. So I think to myself "I want people to think I'm great, I'm going to be humble", which seems like the wrong reason to cultivate humility. However Jesus did say if you want to be great you need to be a servant, so it's not as if it's wrong to strive for greatness through humility. But I guess it's a redefinition of greatness. Greatness is about not people thinking you're great, but being able to move beyond self-love and self-promotion and into other-centredness. That's where true greatness lies. Unfortunately I worry, were I ever to reach that greatness, I would be so humble and other-centred I wouldn't notice how great I am. The great humble person's dilema.

Still, I am convinced that humility is a better path than pride. When I'm self-obsessed and prideful, I will constantly be worried about how I am being received and how good I look in the eyes of others. Yet when I'm more concerned with other, and using my gifts, position, power and abilities for the benefit of others I'll be so concerned with others that I won't even worry about myself, I'll be at ease, the same thing I was striving for in my pride. It's an interesting flip, which seems counter-intuitive, but is also totally obvious.

It was a good book to read. Challenging, inspiring and not condemning and accusing. I know I've got plenty far to go on the journey towards humility. But I've at least read a book on the subject, so I'm probably at least a little bit more awesome for that, wouldn't you say?

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