A Study in Humility


I have always bristled at the thought of a personal blog or site feeling it was arrogant self promotion. Even when receiving consistent encouragement for many years to share my thoughts, I have stubbornly refused to do so. I realize there is benefit in the humility that comes from experience, it was hard for me to think that applied to mine. Humility is not a naturally occuring phenomenon, it is learned. I have always wanted those that work for me or have grown under my tutelage to be better than I ever was. I have a strong desire to accelerate the growth of those I mentor by sharing my experiences. I also have a strong abhorrence of self promotion and I recently realized these ideas are entirely incompatible. Not publishing my thoughts and experiences had become a point of pride for me. Yes, pride can easily be disguised as humility, we will discuss that more later.

1humility noun \hyü-ˈmi-lə-tē, yü-\ : the quality or state of being humble

2humble adj \ˈhəm-bəl-\1 : not proud or haughty : not arrogant or assertive

3humble verb \ˈhəm-bəl-\1 : to make (someone) humble (see 1humble) in spirit or manner 2 : to destroy the power, independence, or prestige of

As a Christian my spiritual training influences my view of humility. The churchy term is brokenness. Brokenness is defined as ” The spiritual state by which one is disarmed of ones self dependence and pride, therefore leaving one disabled and in desperate need of help”1. The adjectives that describe the learning process:

  1. Shattered
  2. Crushed
  3. Maimed
  4. Devoid of Arrogance
  5. Wounded
  6. Contrite
  7. Injured
  8. Smashed
  9. Grieved
  10. Crippled
  11. Wrecked
  12. Demolished
  13. Fractured
  14. Handicapped
  15. Disabled
Achieving humility is a process, a journey. Unless it is learned through the teaching of others, it is often difficult to achieve without significant suffering. Pain and suffering are just not a normal part of the American culture for a couple of generations now. We eat, work, play, watch tv in relative ease and comfort. We get upset about our lack of vacation days and grumble about how we should be paid more. In America today it is hard work to be humble, it is far from the norm. In fact our young men are taught that pride=strength and weakness=humility. This could not be farther from the truth. I have personally watched lives changed through humility and service. Personal examples include:
  • Individuals considered certifiably crazy able to recover and become productive because of a patient ear and consistent respect.
  • I have seen the fatherless integrated into loving families and building real meaningful relationships.
  • I have seen the homeless get back on their feet because someone respects them and treats them as valuable.
There is a real strength that only comes from humility. It is the catalyst for emotional healing, mutual respect, effective leadership, and even true diplomacy. I am still a work in progress and hope to someday be considered a strong humble man. I can certainly look back at my youth, my early years in business, and see a damaging pride I needed to overcome. It is my hope to share my experiences with those that will listen to help others avoid some of the mistakes that I made.
I find it ironic how so many things in life require balance. We often err on one extreme or the other in our effort to regulate ourselves, when what is needed is moderation. Prohibition of alcohol in some circles is a perfect cultural example. Alcohol in and of itself is not bad, it is the misuse that causes problems. The same applies to humility. The goal of humility is not to never get angry or take a stand, that is an extreme and ineffective approach. The opposite extreme is the pervasive prideful behavior we see all around us. The goal is strong selfless humility, an leader who leads without pride.
To stay humble requires diligence. Seeking credit for being humble is a sign that you have moved beyond humility to pride. My perspective is that the sweet balance of humility is closely surrounded on both sides by pride. This is what makes the goal of humility not only difficult to attain, it makes it a challenge to retain it.
I felt very strongly that my first article on this blog needed to be about humility. If I ever begin to get proud of what I write here, I can always refer back to continue to maintain balance. This will hopefully minimize my slice of humble pie…


1 The Theology of Brokenness, The Ambassador


  1. A Study in Humility Phase 3 | Michael McNeil - July 20, 2014

    […] we have never done anything like this before. You can read the previous 2 posts in this series here and […]

What Do You Think?