Reflections on humility

Recently we’ve been writing up our user manual for the R1202 concept being rolled out at all of the QCCC sites.  In the development of the R1202 one of the fingers some of us were unsure about was the index “be humble” finger because we thought it might be a difficult sell, particularly trying to explain humility to the kids at a Primary School level.

However as we developed things and took input from a lot of people and educators, the “humble” finger quickly became a non-negotiable part of the package, because it is hard to explain and this highlighted the need for greater understanding and awareness.

As it stands at the moment, the humble index finger currently has the most ideas and content of all the different R1202 concepts in the user manual!  Probably because the difficulty to explain it has sharpened our focus and made us come up with good and innovative ideas.  We’re also seeing that it has the most impact on kids, and they remember it easily. 

Something we’ve discussed as we worked on ‘humility’ is that Australia probably has claims to humility as a national trait more than most nations, particularly so if you were to compare the stereotype of the Aussie and the American. 

I’d say both Aussies and Yanks would have a strong claim to another of the fingers on our R1202, namely the ring finger, generosity.  However, while it’s a stereotype, our American cousins are known for their hoopla, their jitter-bugging and brash self-promotion.  Bring the same into an Australian context and it doesn’t get a great reaction.    

Taking the field at the NFL Super Bowl

If you’ve ever watched the Super Bowl, the Grand Final of America’s National Football League (NFL) you’ll know the hoopla and jitter-bugging we’re talking about.  None more so than when the teams take the field, hootin’ and hollerin’, gesturing to the crowd, bashing their chests, high fiving and chest thumping.

Imagine how that display would go if a team did it just before the NRL or AFL Grand Final?  Grand Final teams are supposed to be stony-faced, grim as they shoulder arms in the ANZAC tradition and enter sporting “warfare”. 

This Australian expectation of humility does also shows up as the tall-poppy syndrome.  The tall-poppy syndrome can be quite effective in cutting the self-promoter down to size. 

One of the greatest teachers of history, Jesus Christ, once hinted at the tall-poppy syndrome.  He suggested it’s better to take a lowly position at a dinner table and be promoted than to be embarrassed when you assume a prime place and are asked to move to accommodate a more important guest.

He concludes this pointed story with “For everyone who makes himself important will become insignificant, while the man who makes himself insignificant will find himself important.”  (Luke 14:11). 

The tall poppy syndrome can be useful to keep inflated ego and exaggerated opinions of self-worth in check.  But the dark side of the tall poppy syndrome occurs when it becomes a blunt tool used to bludgeon people who are courageously reaching for high standards. 

Clearly advocating humility, as we will be doing, requires a lot of thought and reflection. 

What is a good expectation of humility? 

At what point does the expectation of humility turn into undermining of things that should be respected and celebrated?

2 thoughts on “Reflections on humility

  1. Great Blog… I have recently read a book called “Humility: true greatness” by C.J Mahaney.

    He notes that the result of Collins researching 11 corporations which had become great was that each corporation’s CEO was “quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated, did not believe his own clippings” and thus respected by their employees.

    Humility attracts, it attracts not only the attention of the world, but vastly more importantly, God according to Isaiah 66:2 “This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my Word.”

    What is also helpful – which you did in your blog when address the “tall poppy” – is look at Humilities opposite PRIDE.

    Thanks for your Blog.

    1. Hi Shane. Many thanks for your thoughts, particularly sharing about the succesful CEOs. In a world where bragging and tough bluster seems to be the way ahead, the example of those CEOs probably has echoes of Paul where he says the way of Christ will seem like foolishness to the world. But it works!

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