How Do You Do Humility?
This is a guest blog post by Karin Lindgren, Director of Alumni at New Method Wellness. Karin is involved with the day-to-day operations of our alumni program and serves as a highly appreciated client confidant throughout the treatment process.
The benefits of having humility have become clearer to me lately, particularly as my life as a sober woman has grown and my relationships with others have multiplied. With a couple years of sobriety, I now have a full-time job and am heavily involved in a 12 step fellowship, which has led to a lot of interactions with new people with a range of personalities. For me, this leads to confusing interactions, obsessing about what to say and not say, and repeated opportunities for keeping my side of the street clean. How do I proceed through the day without feeling uncomfortable or needing to apologize? After many mistakes and missteps, it seems having humility in all my interactions is ultimately the answer.
Google defines humility as, “a modest or low view of one’s own importance.”
I like this definition because it states “importance” and does not use the word “self”. Humility does not involve how we feel about ourselves. I believe thinking highly of ourselves and loving ourselves is essential! And being a humble person does not require us to stop being confident and self-assured. But how we view our own importance is different. This points to how big of an effect we believe we have on the grand scheme of the world, and how our little daily interactions with people may not be as earth shattering as we think. They are big enough to apologize for, but not as big as we often make them out to be. Humility allows us to be fallible, imperfect, and to not take ourselves so seriously.
Merriam-Webster defines humility as, “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people”.
This definition points out that a humble person is just one of many, a worker among workers, who is willing to participate and take part in life with others. One of the greatest points in my sobriety was when I came to the realization that I wasn’t different than any other alcoholic or addict. I didn’t necessarily think I was better than my perceived notion of the substance abuser, but I did think I was different. I had no idea I was behaving in ways that were so common, and that only my circumstances were different.
Once I related to others with the same disease, I was humbled, able to receive help and wanted to help others have the same experience. There is a quote by Jesse Jackson, “Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up”. The willingness to share ourselves and our good qualities to help others is key in humility. And reminds me of another quote, this one by C.S. Lewis, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less”. I seek to think about myself less by involving myself in other’s lives, listening to them, and being thoughtful and kind to them.
So, how do you do humility? How do you become humble? Mignon McLaughlin stated, “The proud man can learn humility, but he will be proud of it”. How do you avoid that? Action. With little daily wins we can act our way into being humble, until it becomes a new habit. Here are some suggestions to try:
- Listen and make sure you hear what others are saying.
- Imagine yourself in other’s shoes, with their life. Do you want to be forgiven when you make a mistake? Then forgive others.
- What you know to be true may not be true for everyone at that time. Respect other’s journey and timing as perfect for them.
- Speak gently and positively to others. Words have the great ability to harm others and should be used carefully.
- Obstacles and accomplishments can happen at any time, and can both be treated with the same modesty.
- Admit when you are wrong and apologize quickly.
I once heard someone talk about “being right sized” and how we should strive for that. This is a good description of humility. We should not be oversized, arrogant or difficult to compete with. We also shouldn’t be undersized, too quiet, doubtful or meek. There is a balance between being too big and too little, somewhere in there medium exists. There is a Swedish word for that, “lagom”. It doesn’t translate well to English, but it generally means just right, perfectly simple, and plenty, but not too much. There is a quote that goes along this idea, “Enough is a feast”. There is value to being right sized and humble. In my experience in striving to be humble, I have found that I make fewer missteps in my relationships and don’t clash with different personalities. There is less conflict, stress, and discomfort. Humility is the easier and gentler way to do life.