Thursday, November 8, 2012

A slice of humble pie (I'll take two)

I finally figured out what this election lacked. OK, it lacked a lot of things, but something kept bugging me since the debate debacle and on into the days preceding the frenzied voting. Not just the presidential race - but ALL races. What was lacking was a quality that I find incredibly important, especially with regards to the amount of respect and admiration and faith I have in a person.

It's humility.

Now, humility is defined as "being modest and respectful", to which some might interpret as "unsure and a pushover". But in even the smallest of doses, humility can be quite effective.

To me, humility doesn't mean you have an absence of self-confidence. It's knowing your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and owning up to them. It's knowing that you can't possibly be right all the time and deferring to the opposition every once in awhile. It's admitting what you don't know in addition to professing what you do. For instance, he governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, showed humility (in my opinion) when he, as a Republican close to an election, praised President Obama for his immediate assistance after Hurricane Sandy. Some might say he was a traitor, or that he shot himself and his party in the foot. But it took balls, and was a humble representation that the "other guys" - the ones his party doesn't really get along with - stepped up to the plate when his state needed them most.

I guess I understand where humility might not have a big place in the political arena. Progress in politics is probably not gained by mentioning in a speech that you don't have all the answers, nor do you expect to be right 100% of the time. But it would be nice if the candidates were required to show, say, 10% humility over the course of the campaign just so we'd all see that they're not all totally full of shit.

But aside from politics, humility can go a long way in life - in careers, in relationships, even in passing as you go about your day. Again, humility is not on the same plane as a lack of confidence. If anything, admitting and acknowledging that you're not God can go a long way to gaining respect and a certain camaraderie with the rest of the world.

For instance (disclaimer: these are fictional characters. I'd love to say they are real, but I know better than to even elude to people I know in blogs without despairing repercussions):

The guy in the  meeting who is always right and has nothing but criticism for everyone else's idea? Yeah. We don't like you and we talk about you behind your back. We think you're full of crap because you can't possibly be right 100% of the time. And even if you are, we think you're wrong because you're a tool.

Dude on the blind date? OK, maybe you were trying to impress me with how awesome you were but truth be told, you came off like kind of a prick. I could have lived the rest of my life without hearing how you "earned" that big bonus AGAIN this year because all your clients think you're the best thing since sliced bread and how you can do the most chin-ups of any other hardass at your local gym. 

New friend? Yes, your kids are smarter, better-disciplined and more ambitions than mine. And yes, your new boob job looks great (no, I don't want to feel them.) And absolutely, I totally did think that guy was checking you out. Why would he not? You haven't opened your mouth yet.

I probably go to the other extreme. Though I try to appear confident, I usually end up apologizing for something or prefacing it with, "I may be full of shit, but..." I will  express my opinion, God knows, but I don't think I get all puffed up about the things I do know. If I'm wrong about this, someone please let me know. And I apologize in advance for my stupidity.

Confidence coupled with humility is impressive. It can be as simple as my boss saying, "That's a good idea. I hadn't thought of that," or an endearing, "I went for a 10 mile run today but pooped out after five." Humility makes me like people more. If you're trying to impress me, tell me a story about how you tried to make this fancy dinner for your kids and spent hours gathering the ingredients, chopping vegetables and cooking it up only to burn the final product. You'll get an "A" for effort, as opposed to the "C" you'd have gotten if you would have told me that you're sure you could win Top Chef.

But don't confuse humility with wishy-washiness or weakness. In large doses, humility can come off as timidity, or a lack of self-confidence. That's technically not humility. That's low self-esteem. The person who can be humble is the person who is confident enough in their strengths to publicly admit their faults - and be OK with that.

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