Tag Archives: politics

Do we have the courage to be humble?

That they might have joy column by Jacki Wood, published in the Nodaway News Leader, 2/10/22


Do we have the courage to be humble?

That might seem like an unusual question to consider. Why would we need courage for humility? Or, why would we even want to be humble?

In “Could a lack of humility be at the root of what ails America?” Frank McAndrew, Knox College psychology professor, said: “There are a lot of reasons behind the political polarization of the country and the deterioration of civic discourse. I wonder if a lack of humility is one of them.”

Psychologists Everett Worthington and Scott Allison studied humility and found after generations of self-focus – the “do your own thing” of the 1960s and the push for “high self-esteem” in the 80s and 90s – the need for humility has increased.

McAndrew noted other factors – the growing distrust in experts as well as news outlets and social media serving as echo chambers, “where like-minded individuals reinforce each other’s worldviews.”

In a time when being right seems to be more important than listening, having the courage to change can be difficult. But I also think humility has been misunderstood.

Indian philosopher Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan believed that “humility is the non-judgemental state of mind when we are best able to learn, contemplate and understand everyone and everything else.”

Dr. Tim Soutphommasane, University of Sydney sociology professor, said humility is needed for human flourishing: “(It) is required not only for us to improve ourselves, but also for us to treat others well.”

Religious leader Dieter F. Uchtdorf said humility does not mean thinking we are worthless: “Humility directs our attention and love toward others.”

Until recently, humility wasn’t discussed outside of religion. However in the early 21st century, Worthington and Allison write, “the need for humility burst through church doors into the halls of corporate power” as a result of the fraud and dishonesty found in cases like Enron, Freddie Mac, the Lehman Brothers and Bernie Madoff.

Looking beyond religion, Duke University psychologist Mark Leary conducted a series of studies exploring intellectual humility or “the recognition that the things you believe in might, in fact, be wrong.”

Vox science reporter Brian Resnick wrote about Leary’s studies and explained it isn’t about being a pushover or lacking confidence. “The intellectually humble don’t cave every time their thoughts are challenged. It’s about entertaining the possibility that you may be wrong and being open to learning from the experience of others. It’s about asking: What am I missing here?”

According to McAndrew, Leary discovered “those who score on the high end of intellectual humility process information differently from those who score on the low end. They’re more tolerant of ambiguity and realize not every problem has a single, definitive answer or outcome. When they hear a claim, they are more likely to seek out evidence and prefer two-sided, balanced arguments. Unfortunately, most people do not score high on intellectual humility.”

The good news is that Leary said it doesn’t require a high IQ or a certain set of skills to achieve intellectual humility, but simply a desire to acknowledge your limits.

So if it’s possible for any of us to achieve, then the next question would be do we actually want to increase our intellectual humility? Do we want to be better citizens and neighbors? Or, are we comfortable sitting where we are right now?

Sometimes we might not even realize there’s a problem which is why humility is so important.

Soutphommasane said, “For there to be recognition that one may be in the wrong, even when one doesn’t necessarily mean to be, there must first be humility. Someone must be willing to acknowledge their current ways may not necessarily be right or the best.”

This idea of humility is not just about political polarization or civic discourse. In the business world, for example, Fortune 500 coach Melody Wilding says: “Research proves humble leadership works. Not only are self-aware leaders more effective, but they also impact the bottom line.”

The case for humility can be found in other fields, relationships and experiences as well.

But are we willing to try it out? Are we willing to accept we might be wrong?

Courage is the ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous. It can be found in small acts or grand feats but also in ways which seem insignificant but are life changing. 

Facing fears. Standing up for others. Doing the right thing when no one is watching. 

And … choosing humility.

I believe humility has the power to solve a lot of problems.

Do we have the courage to be humble?

‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood, Nodaway News Leader

I’m standing in the middle of the road.

If you’ve ever been in the middle of a road, or seen someone who is, you know it’s probably not the safest place to be.

There’s a chance you might get hit. More likely, though, you’ll get yelled at or cursed at, honked at or shown some unfriendly hand gestures.

When I was a kid, we lived on a quiet street, so it was pretty common to see us in the middle of the road. We would play ball or skateboard or even go sledding with little concern. Now I live in the country and walking down the middle of a gravel road can be quite peaceful.


But the road I’m standing in the middle of is not a country road. It’s not a city street. Or even a busy highway. Although it’s plenty loud. And it can feel fairly threatening.

The road I’m standing on is a political one. And I don’t think I’m alone here either.

It’s sometimes hard to see each other there in the middle, or near the middle, because the far left and the far right are zooming by us so incredibly loudly.

We’re trying to navigate each day while surrounded by the divisiveness and partisan polarization that has grown in our country in recent years. And we’re doing it, right there amidst all that yelling and cursing and honking, still trying to stand on our principles without being tossed to and fro.

Before I go any further, let me be clear…I’m not promoting silence or complicity. When there are issues we feel strongly about, we should take a stand, write our elected leaders, hold meetings, walk in parades, knock on doors, advocate, share on social media. We can do it fervently and still respectfully.

In “Eisenhower Republicanism – Pursuing the Middle Way,” author Steven Wagner writes: “In American political culture, those who describe themselves as ‘middle of the road’ are often portrayed as unwilling to take a stand or lacking in political sophistication. This was not the case with Eisenhower, whose ‘middle way’ was a carefully considered political philosophy similar to Theodore Roosevelt’s cautious progressivism.”

Eisenhower said his ‘middle way’ was a “practical working basis between extremists.”

Sounds to me like we could use some of that practicality in our current political climate.

So what can we learn from Eisenhower today?

A couple of Bills may have the answer.

Bill Kristol, a conservative Republican of the George HW Bush White House and founder of The Weekly Standard, and Bill Galston, a Democrat veteran of the Bill Clinton White House and senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, created the New Center project and wrote Ideas to Re-Center America.

New Center

“We present some bold new ideas for re-centering America. We know that our politics have gotten off kilter. As the parties have become more polarized and our politics more partisan, the great American majority – which wants to see cooperation and compromise – has been left with no good choices.”

Their ideas center on four core values they believe can help move politics beyond polarization – opportunity, security, ingenuity and accountability.

“The ideas we advance represent a New Center for American politics, a politics that reflects both our enduring principles and the new circumstances we confront. In place of a politics stuck in the past, we offer an agenda re-centered in the future, not a tepid compromise between Left and Right, but a new way toward the stronger economy, more inclusive society and more effective politics that we all want for the country we love.”

You can read more at newcenter.org.

Albert Einstein said: “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” While we might be going through some difficult times, there might also be some great opportunities out there to discover.

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So if you’re like me and standing in the middle of the road, or on the shoulder of one side or the other, let’s look for ways to come together and not be drowned out by all the yelling and cursing and honking.

I’d much rather help build bridges (than walls) to help unite and strengthen our nation.