Humility with an Edge
When you think of the word humility do you think of someone who denies their gifts and says, “Oh no, I didn’t really do a good job” or “I’m not really that smart?”
I have come to think that true humility looks quite different from that. I think that our self deprecation, encouraged in many of our families, is more an expression of fear. On my desk, I have a card that Lou sent me with this quotation by Eleanor Roosevelt: Do one thing every day that scares you.” These words have been my guide. I have found that doing something that scares me takes courage and perhaps surprisingly it takes humility too. What is it that scares you? If I were sitting with you in my office asking that question, I’d perhaps ring the bell and suggest that we share some moments of silence. What scares you? I imagine that even if I did that, many of you would sit there wondering without an answer. Often, in order to find what scares you, you need to go through an entire day or even week with the intention of finding what that is.” It takes courage to say something into that chasm, wondering if it will be accepted. And, sometimes, it takes more courage to simply be silent and listen. I believe that those situations which have unknown and possibly scary outcomes require humility, too.
Every few weeks an idea comes to me about something that is going on in the world. I wait a few hours and then I write down that first idea and then during the next hours or days an editorial emerges. Sometimes I struggle for weeks for the right words and ideas and other times they flow from my pen. The first time, I was scared about so many things—wrong wording, ridicule, or even that the newspaper editor would simply ignore my email. Gradually, I have overridden those fears so many times that the scary part happens later, when the editorial is accepted and I can’t change anything and the idea no longer seems important. Once I articulate something that was even very hard to articulate, the idea becomes commonplace. This happens to me every week with sermons too! Then, I get the email from the editor that the editorial is online and going to print and then the fear comes in again. When I wrote about gun control, I wondered if someone was going to come and shoot me. And, I did get some nasty comments. The part that humility plays in all of this is my ongoing conversation with myself that if people think what I write or say is stupid it isn’t the end of the world. I think of all the other people who have been ridiculed. If you want to see humility, I suggest that you watch the TED talk by Monica Lewinsky about the price of shame. There, you will see that incredible blend of courage and humility. https://www.ted.com/talks/monica_lewinsky_the_price_of_shame
Join me on that journey that Eleanor Roosevelt invites us to take when she asks us to do the thing every day that scares us. She knew ridicule and shame. To truly live our lives, we must get over our fears. Courage and humility hold the keys.
In love and community,
Humility with an Edge
- A Story Finally Finds a Voice
- March 4: Tikkun Olam and “Me too” – Rev. Patty Willis