If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. If you are blamed you will not be discouraged. If they call you a saint you will not put yourself on a pedestal.—Mother Teresa
A confession: At my very best moments, I desire to be humble as described here by Mother Teresa. The rest of the time, I am looking for praise, and want to hide from disgrace or failure. When I am blamed I want to blame someone else, or something else. When I make the wrong choice, I want to hide from it, or at least ignore it. When I am praised, I want to say, “Yeah that’s right, I did it.”
That’s my confession about humility. What’s yours?
In business (and life), I struggle with being truly humble, especially when no one is watching. Yet, humility in leadership is foundational to learning, growing and being authentic. When we choose humility, we see ourselves, others, and our circumstances more clearly. What gets in the way of humility is often our desire to appear as somebody we are not. It’s about impressing others, or being uncomfortable or ashamed of something about ourselves. Practicing—and engaging—humility means we get rid of all that. My impulse to hide from disgrace and failure? That’s a fear of disappointing others. My need to blame someone or something? That’s shame. My instinct to applaud myself when I am praised is me, wanting to impress the world. But that’s not my true identity. Humility is about finding the version of yourself that has been untouched by shame or fear.
Perfect Love Casts Out Fear
My journey around humility is one that involves an awareness that “perfect love casts out fear.” That reality lived out every day has been the single biggest difference for me, on a deeper level. The reminder that I am loved produces peace and gratitude for who I am and the life I live. At my best times, I am no longer comparing myself to others or some ideal. I am also not fearful of how I am perceived or judged. This bold awareness, for me and you, opens the doors to be unashamed about our areas of weakness and areas of strength. When we stop pretending, we begin to embrace humility. This is the truth that I had to embrace and still do, when I am at my best.
The Grandest Road
Today, its easy to walk down the bigger, grander, stronger, wealthier, shiner road. After all, we live in a culture that thrives on all of that and more. In short order, we grow up believing that to be truly loved, we should be bigger, stronger, shinier and smarter. Once we realize we are not some or all of those things (and no one is everything) fear and shame enter in and we are off to the races.
Knowing that we’re loved allows us to live out of who we are. When we do that, we are able to be much more humble. We aren’t working so hard to prove something to somebody. We realize we’re not perfect. We walk with less fear; we walk exposed. As we do that, we are able to extend that love to others around us. That’s when we can give others the same grace we have been given. It’s at that point when humility truly flourishes.