Being Humble

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I started to entitle this blog post “I’m a Humble Man.” But then it seemed that making that statement wouldn’t be consistent with being humble but rather boastful. So I settled on this less pretentious title.

When I put together my list of potential blog topics over four years ago, “Being Humble” was 14th on my list of about 35. Since then, my list of topics has grown significantly and now exceeds 150 titles. And yet, it is just now that I am writing about it.

I don’t know if I have been putting it off because I didn’t want to wrestle with this topic or if as I scanned down my list of topics to choose from for my next post, that a spark of creativity just never jumped at me when I read “Being Humble.” But whatever the reason, I am willing to tackle it now.

A couple of years ago when I wrote a post about What We Would be Known For, I included a list character traits that I aspired to emulate: dedicated, honest, loyal, trustworthy, dependable, loving, considerate, funny, happy, and spiritual—all traits that fit very nicely with my MBTI personality type, ISTJ. But, missing from that list, whether it was consciously or unconsciously, was humble.

I think part of the reason that I have delayed exploring this topic is that I have had difficulty tracing back to why I want to be humble. One of the thoughts that I had while reading through my dad’s sermons recently was maybe I would run across one of his sermons that had inspired me to be humble. I know being humble is a subject that comes up multiple times throughout the Bible so it is likely that I had heard my dad preach on that topic. But if it was one of my dad’s sermons that inspired me, it was not one of the 32 typed up in his book.

Merriam-Webster has a number of definitions for humble but I think the one that is most relevant for me is: not proud or arrogant; not thinking of yourself as better than other people. Or another way to think of it is not being a braggart, which I never have been. Anytime I notice myself venturing close to making a boastful statement, I get a funny feeling like this is not who I am and if I proceed to make the statement anyway; I feel very self-conscious about how it will be interpreted.

Even when I am recognized for something good I have accomplished, I often will deflect the comment or come back with a statement that it wasn’t that significant.

Individual Winner: Cited for work in chromatographic analyses

Individual Winner: Cited for work in chromatographic analyses

One of the hardest awards for me to accept was the year that I won the scientific achievement award at work. One aspect that made this a difficult recognition for me was the fact that I had to beat out other scientists who probably felt their submissions were more worthy than my winning one. But the engraved, wooden plaque that I received in recognition of my achievement has hung on my office wall for almost 25 years, not as a boastful badge of arrogance, but as a reminder of the joy I received in being recognized for my technical accomplishment.

In actuality, I very much appreciate positive feedback and will typically undertake a task in order to exceed other people’s expectations. This has probably contributed to my perfectionism, which isn’t necessarily a positive character trait (as my wife can attest). But it is one way to prevent anyone from finding fault in what I have done so that only positive feedback will be the outcome.

It seems to me quite a conundrum that I enjoy getting praise and yet have difficulty accepting that praise for fear of appearing arrogant.

Teacher

In my professional teaching, it always brings a smile to my face and a feeling of joy when I get positive feedback at the end of the course. This is certainly not my motivation for teaching, but it does validate that my efforts have been well received.

If you think about it, anyone can choose to be humble. It is something you can do completely on your own. But a question, why would someone want to be humble? And in particular, why I have chosen to be humble?

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Growing up a PK (preacher’s kid), I know I was exposed to the Bible verses about the first shall be last and the last shall be first as well as how someone who exalts himself before the Lord will be humbled and someone who humbles himself before the Lord will be exalted. Could it be as simple as I don’t want to be a hypocrite like the Pharisees or that when a record of my life is reviewed, I will receive positive feedback?

I honestly don’t know.

But what I do know is that for as long as I can remember, I have strived to be humble. Being humble is not necessarily something I do to receive positive feedback like the other character traits I listed earlier. I like for people to notice my dedication and my dependability. I’m certainly not looking for someone to compliment me on being humble.

No for now, I will just continue to be humble but further explore its engendering in me. And if my searching proves fruitful, then I will come to you with an update once I have that revelation.

2 responses to “Being Humble

  1. You are very humble! I must have learned from you what an important trait that is because I too never want to boast or act important. I learned very quickly during my (thankfully short!) time dating that my number one turn-off was arrogance. Somehow it seemed to cancel out whatever good things the person had done, and to keep them from being interested in anyone other than themselves. It’s much better when our accomplishments simply speak for themselves, and we have the continual benefit of learning from others by truly listening to what others have to say instead of talking about ourselves all the time. I guess to me arrogance is not compatible with intelligence, in that it constantly blocks the person from seeing and learning from other people’s accomplishments or perspectives. I didn’t mean for this to be such a long comment! But you have asked a great question that really made me think! And I am lucky to have found a humble genius scientist to marry, just like mom 🙂

    • Thank you for your insightful comments! It’s nice to know that the character traits that we try hard to emulate are picked up by those we love and even more so when they too try to emulate them. You have absolutely picked the perfect soulmate! I could not have found a better person for you to marry and I just love how you are in a similar relationship like your mom and I, just one generation apart.

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