[May 11, 2022] You’re not as smart as you think you are, so stop acting like you know it all. And, darn it, stop taking yourself so seriously. Humility, it’s your best friend.
Humility means you are probably not as smart as you think you are. That you are a flawed person. And you know it and knowingly embrace the fact that you are imperfect and inadequate. This is where the idea of personal responsibility comes into play. You compete with yourself to be slightly better tomorrow than you are today; that you are able to be better in some way that you can manage.
That ability to know that you can improve is the beginning of humility. We often ask the question, given that we are flawed, how can we be as good as someone else? That is not the best question. The right question is, can you be slightly better tomorrow than your currently flawed self? And the answer is “yes” if you can set your personal standards low enough for you to achieve them. If so, then you can be better. This is the pathway to self-improvement, and you rising above your yesterday’s self. This is the pathway to a meaningful life.
Acknowledge that you should be careful about what you do or say; you’re probably mistaken because you are flawed and insufficient. That raises an important philosophical point that has been at the forefront of thinking for thousands of years. How do you make practical, positive changes if you don’t know what you might need to know? How can you be cautious not to make mistakes? How do you do good?
The answer is that you should be careful about stepping outside the area of your personal knowledge. The solution is to start with the small things in your life. Fix those things you can adjust within your competence. Start with those small problem areas that trouble you, or perhaps trouble your family. You really have to have your act together if you try to fix your family. We should acknowledge that it is hard to put yourself together and that it’s really tough to put your family together. Obviously, the world is more complicated than you or your family. So why do so many folks think they can save the world?
We tell kids today that they are the best kids in the world, they are wonderful, and they can achieve anything they want. We teach them to believe they are morally superior to others, that they can do great things by thinking the ‘right’ way, and they can do so easily by holding tightly onto a set of dogmatic ideas that rejects religion, the freedom of speech, and any idea that runs counter to the current political thinking. Wrong. We are raising narcissists that are tragically disappointed in their lives and are angry, resentful, bitter, and vindictive. Not only is this destructive personally to them, but it is also dangerous to their families and communities. They will not be a positive force to those around them. Only tragedy can result.
And while the virtue of humility is rarely discussed in our modern society, it certainly can be a noble goal. So stop taking yourself so seriously, be humble, admit your flaws and work to make yourself better each day, a little each day. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday. It should be one of our most honorable aims, for humility is, indeed, your best friend.
Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).