Half prone to using it (at best) but doubly exposed to it, there are dozens of opportunities for humility every day which we don’t take up.
But, there are times it does work for us.
For instance, say you sent an important email only to realise thirty minutes later it was incomplete. A quick call reveals there’s no big cost in this faux pas; a little embarrassment for unprofessionalism, but it’s quickly countered for in a forthright, honest apology. You’ve been as honest as you could be, not once thinking of making an excuse or apologising too much. The person on the other end of the line—a superior—is fair. They accept the inaccuracy with your promise to have another go. They tell you there’s no hurry and they even have a kindly chuckle with you about it as you speak about where you feel it’s lacking.
Both hang up and then reflect over what just happened. Mystery pervades.
Someone admitted they were wrong (you) and someone issued forgiving grace (them). Both engaged in expressions of humility. But who started it? You did! You took courage and made the call, and did it with integrity no less.
Whatever motivated you to make the call to uncover the fault and offer restitution is of no consequence. (For many times we do it for self-protection.)
Humility only counts in the heat of battle... or in this case within the confines of rapport between two people; the difficult phone call. It is the expression of honest courage to make a call and admit wrongdoing—intentional or not.
The Physiology of Humility
Anyone can think humbly, yet most resist it, for what reward is there to think that way? Yet, to act humbly requires the risk of ego; no matter how ‘spiritual’ one is, this is an area the character is tested. Remember we’re not acting on grounds of success but via the funnel of failure. Not many people thrive when the road turns south.
How humility works, then, is it functions as courage to sacrifice the want for self-protection—it risks what it could falsely preserve; but it also knows that if it preserves falsity, that very falsity might be revealed; then embarrassment, and harm to reputation, would be cubed.
The expression of humility reveals a very pragmatic person; they live in no wonderland of fancy. Accountability for their acts is theirs. They’ll live and die by what they do and what they’ve done.
So, humility is honesty. It’s courage. It’s the fear of the Lord, for it knows it can’t hide the truth from God. Truth right-sizes the humble person, and though not many are given to identifying themselves as ‘humble persons’ the fact remains. Those wedded to truth are humble people, for truth is balance and balance is humility.
How It Inspires
Getting back to our interaction with the superior—the understanding boss—we see how our humility (the admission of our mistake) gave them the opportunity to forgive our error.
Just about any time a fair-minded person gets that sort of opportunity they’ll take it up. To forgive someone is an inspirational activity. Both people expressed humility; to give something to the other. But to be in a place to take advantage of an error and to not do it—to issue grace instead—is a personal inspiration. Our humility has blessed the boss with the chance to express their own humility.
Instead of dealing with the typical whinges of their employees, they have the pleasure of this sort of interaction. It’s what good bosses are in it for.
What took place ushers the blessing of the Lord. That will inspire... every time.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.