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humility and truth



Wouldn’t it be lovely if humility smelled like warm chocolate chip cookies so we could easily find ours when we lost it?

A small group of us were sharing comeuppance stories—times when we’d gotten too big for our britches and had taken a big fall from grace.

Betsy’s fall was the most dramatic. She’d been off-the-charts successful in her marketing job for a cosmetics company. Another company recruited her for their CMO job, complete with huge salary, signing bonus, and jaw-dropping perks. Betsy enjoyed her amazing perks for only five months. The CEO who’d recruited her fired her, saying Betsy was overly self-righteous, too self-important, and unnecessarily scornful of employees who weren’t executives.

“Go. Now. Be gone,” said the CEO as she made a sweeping away gesture with her hand. “I want you out of here immediately.”

Betsy said the CEO’s office had glass walls. So, while the CEO’s words were unheard by others, she saw everyone watching the dismissive gestures. And smiling.

It took Betsy five months to be able to say she was glad the humiliating experience had happened. Without it, she said, she would have remained too big for her britches, believing the myths about herself. She said she might have even become more unbearable.

“I got what I deserved. I let my success go to my head,” she said.

As do too many others.

Getting what we deserve

The endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. ~Anne Lamott

Not letting success steal our self-awareness is at the heart of staying humble. We control whether that happens or not. Either we let success go to our head and become self-important jerks, or we don’t.

Success isn’t some kind of a sentient being that inhabits our bodies, takes control of our mind, and miraculously makes us someone new.

Becoming successful or powerful or rich only shows what we really were all the time.

Hubris is an accessory we acquire.

If we were kind before being successful, we stay kind. If we were thoughtful, we stay thoughtful. If we were open-minded, we stay open-minded.

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real. ~Thomas Merton

How could Betsy and the rest of us have stayed grounded enough so we didn’t have a comeuppance story to tell? A smorgasbord of choices and options exists. To make sure we don’t get too big for our britches, all we have to do is be self-aware.

If you’re looking for suggestions for how to avoid having a comeuppance story, here’s 31 ideas to get you started. Take a look and think about what could work for you.

31 things to do

  1. Practice gratitude
  2. Admit to being wrong, don’t double down
  3. Accept challenges with grace
  4. Adopt a beginner’s mindset
  5. Focus on the effort, not the outcome
  6. Ask for feedback and really listen to it
  7. Confront your prejudices
  8. Choose purpose over passion
  9. Be curious and ask questions
  10. Kill your pride
  11. Appreciate others
  12. Accept good enough
  13. Understand your weaknesses and faults
  14. Be gentle with the weaknesses and faults of others
  15. Keep your abilities in perspective
  16. Don’t fear failure
  17. Accept others as they are
  18. Don’t measure yourself by material possessions
  19. Practice self-compassion
  20. Live your values and do so with grace
  21. Let others live their values with grace, too
  22. See happiness as a by-product of purpose
  23. Give credit where it’s due
  24. Connect deeper than generalities
  25. Don’t evaluate others by their position or status
  26. Accept criticism as a gift
  27. Laugh at yourself
  28. Forgive
  29. Be mindful of the expectations you set for yourself and others
  30. Listen more, talk less
  31. Serve someone

Humility is a quiet gift we give ourselves and others.

Quiet anything easily gets lost or overlooked in today’s hurly-burly pace of life. But, as with most good and worthwhile things in life, we have to want quiet humility. Have to work at having it. Have to never lose sight of its importance.

Owning the responsibility to maintain our humility makes all the difference.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay