Have you ever been accused of being arrogant? Boy, I have. And rightly so. I’ve done more of my fair share of pole-vaulting over the fine line between self-confidence and arrogance. Why? Because I didn’t have a good working definition of “humility.”
Yes, I can be arrogant, and some will accuse me of being arrogant simply because I’m writing on the subject of humility. Who am I to tell you how to be humble?! Hmmmf! Maybe I’m making a mistake sharing on this subject, but I’ll take that risk.
I’m not going to tell you how to be humble, because I’m not an adept and we all learned in our first week of Real Property that you cannot transfer something you don’t possess. Honestly, I don’t know. Welcome to the paradox of humility.
What I can share are two definitions of humility that I’m willing to work toward. These ideals, while difficult to attain (and I certainly have not attained them) are simple to remember. But before sharing the ideals, let’s get a firm understanding of why it’s important to strive toward a working understanding and daily practice of humility.
- It makes life easier. We don’t have to live under our self-imposed sentence of always being the best, smartest, hardest-working. That self-reliant attitude causes all sorts of damage to ourselves and the people in our lives.
- It’ll help the profession. The prevalence of arrogant lawyers has hurt the reputation of the profession, which harms all of us. So, doing our part to lessen that perception is an ethic worth our collective aspiration.
With those two thoughts in mind, let’s look at two working definitions of humility.
“In relationships, humility makes no comparisons.”
Making no comparisons between ourselves and others we meet frees us from the constant trap of feeling “less than” or “not good enough” than some people and the trap of feeling guilty for possessing the wonderful skills and talents that each of us possess. We have all experienced the fear of not being good enough and its twin that others will think we’re arrogant when we are good enough—especially when we’re sincerely and naturally great at something.
Try not to compare yourself to others all the time and you’ll experience a freedom from fear that you’ve never known before.
“In experiences, humility accepts the situation as it is.”
We’re in the business of fixing problems. So, accepting life on life’s term is not something we practice very often. It’s our JOB to change things for the better, or at least in the best interest of our client. That’s OK in our professional life most of the time because it has to be. But it’s not always the best move to change something. Sometimes it’s in the best interest of our client to accept how things are instead of acting to make things worse. Sometimes it’s in the best interest of our self-esteem to just be humble.
Sincere humility is really one of the strongest powers on the planet. I don’t possess this characteristic as often as I would like. Maybe it can never be truly possessed. But, I’m willing to move toward an ideal. I hope you’ll join me on that path, for yourself, and for the good of the profession.
What is your definition of humility and how do you work toward your ideal?