I don’t want power, I want to empower! This is the heart’s cry of the humble leader.
Last year on New Year’s Day a pastor recommended me a small orange book with a title in Latin. Despite good intentions I never got around to reading that book until my good friend Kaitie put a physical copy in my hands.
When two people recommend you read a book on humility in the same year, perhaps God is trying to tell you something.
What is Humility?
That little orange book is called Humilitas written by John Dickson. In that book he defines Humility in the following way: “Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself” (p.24).
Unfortunately many do not have an accurate understanding of the topic of humility. Many people mistake humility for false modesty at best and down right self-hate at worse. Lets take the example of a talented baker. Say you go into a beautiful bakery on the recommendation of a friend. You bite into your cake and you’re blown away. You say to the baker, ‘this cake was fantastic you truly have a gift.’ The baker might respond in a couple of different ways. As a false modest; “Oh no its not that good, I just got lucky I guess.” Or in a self-hating fashion; “I’m the worst cake maker, I don’t even know why I try.”Let me be clear, neither of these responses are truly humble. The first is just an outright lie and the second is typically as we go fishing for compliments in need of reassurance because of our own insecurities and doubts.
True humility was the baker accurately assessing his talents and using them in service for the good of others.
Humility is not about thinking less of yourself, but thinking of others more.
To expand on that idea, its okay to be good at something and know it. In fact accurate assessment of self is the first aspect of humility. The second is using those talents not for glory or self-aggrandizement, but forsaking that power to empower and serve others.
Why is it beneficial?
We all have a faint idea that humility is a virtue we need on some level. However, its a struggle sometimes to see just exactly how this virtue serves us or others for that matter. The answer is simple: Growth and Contribution.
Put simply, humility causes us to slow down and consider. To do the hard work of self introspection. This can be at an individual or organizational level. Stephen Covey puts it best in his bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
Humility truly is the mother of all virtues. It makes us a vessel, a vehicle, an agent instead of the source…It unleashes all other learning, all growth and process. With the humility that comes from being principle-centered we’re empowered to learn from the past, have hope for the future, and act with confidence in the present.
How do you acquire it?
Shaped by what we love
There’s great truth in the principle that we imitate what we admire. One of the first steps in acquiring humility is to simply appreciate it as a virtue worthy of pursuit. Falling in love with this long held value will set you on a journey. But you will never take the first step if you don’t desire the destination.
Go low and help others grow
We all have influence and affluence to varying degrees. For example You might not be “rich” but you are most definitely “richer” than someone else. How can you creatively think of ways to use what’s in your possession to serve another and help them rise?
If you have an accurate view of your creator, you will have an accurate view of self. But if the premise is wrong, the rest of the logic falls apart. When you look up into the heavens you know something far bigger and more glorious lies beyond. Living in the light of that truth helps you see your proper place in the universe. Filled by God so you can pour into the lives of others.
The most influential and inspiring people are often marked by humility” (p.19).
Christ is our ultimate example for humility. Forsaking the glory he was due as God, he came down to earth and emptied himself so that humanity might benefit. Although not his fault, he took on the responsibility of humanities sin and provided an example for all eternity.