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A Dose of Humility

06. April 2013

Humility is not a word usually associated with a leader these days. Yet that was the word the media have most often used to describe the new Pope of the Catholic Church…to be known only as Francis.

While extensive media coverage highlighted the new Pontiff’s impressive academic background and doctrinal stands, the “buzz” kept coming back to his servant’s heart.
In Buenos Aires as Bishop, he rode the bus. He cooked his own meals. He washed the feet of people with AIDS. Radical stuff!

Really? Has the whole world become so self-absorbed that the notion of a leader who serves is breaking news? How sad.

Humility and modesty are two character strengths often overlooked in the modern day. Look how much of our attention is focused on “worshiping” celebrities who are completely self-absorbed and egotistical.

Like the popular country song, “it’s hard to be humble…” but it’s of critical importance if we’re going to get along and be happy in life.

Part of the problem is that humility gets such a bad rap! To be humble is not to be weak. It’s also not about being a doormat to be walked over.

Humility is simply this…having a healthy perspective of your abilities (neither egotism nor low self esteem) as well as your limitations – combined with value for the importance and abilities of others.

Tao Te Ching said this about humility:

“All streams flow to the sea
Because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.
If you want to govern people,
You must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead the people,
You must learn how to follow them.”

Don’t we all love humility in other people? How many times have we pointed out the boss, athlete or celebrity who’s so nice, kind and down to earth? Maybe that’s why so many are drawn to the humble leader of a 1.2 billion-member church who still pays his own hotel bill?

And guess what? Humility is good for your health! Here are a few benefits mental health experts say come from humility:

* A reduction of anxiety, fear and depression
* A reduction in conflict, anger and aggression
* An increase in happiness and well-being
* An increase in optimism
* An improvement in friendship and intimate relationships
* Openness for new experiences and new learning
* Greater empathy, compassion and altruism
* Higher job satisfaction and morale at work
While humility may be good for the soul, clearly a servant’s heart is also good for daily living. The new Pope apparently agrees. As he took his place for the first time on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis did not seek to bless but to be blessed. What a concept.


“But the greatest among you shall be your servant.”
Matthew 23:11

Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.