Tag Archives: religion

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?

Are we missing the whole point?

That they might have joy column by Jacki Wood for the Nodaway News Leader

We sat down at a corner table in Pizza Planet and began eating a late lunch. It was Christmas Eve, our first day at Disney World, and the restaurant was buzzing not unlike the scene from Toy Story.

This trip was our Christmas present, but I had struggled with knowing that so many employees were away from their families while we were enjoying ours.

In an effort to not get too caught up in the magic of Disney, we decided to be more diligent in showing our gratitude and sharing the spirit of Christmas. We sincerely thanked the shuttle drivers, cast members, cashiers and custodians and wished them all a Merry Christmas. We tried to be especially cheery, gracious and giving. And we did the same to our fellow guests in the very crowded but happiest place on earth.

So as we began eating our pizza that afternoon, a teenage girl sat down at the table next to us. We smiled and Larry said “Merry Christmas!”

She started talking with us while waiting for the rest of her family.

As the conversation progressed, we learned she was from New York, going to school, working a few part-time jobs including one as a Hebrew language tutor and that she was Jewish. To which Larry’s “Merry Christmas” greeting was brought up.

Was she offended when people say that to her?

No, not at all, she replied. In fact, she said, when someone says Merry Christmas, she’s happy they enjoy their holiday. And she wants to be happy about celebrating hers as well.

When we were done, Larry wished her a Happy Chanukah and she replied with Merry Christmas to us.

I was so impressed by this young but wise teenager.

In recent years, there are many who have been offended over the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

I think most people’s response to this issue is because they believe we need to keep Christ in Christmas.

And I whole-heartedly agree.

I say Merry Christmas because that is what I celebrate.

But when we choose to be offended because someone is saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, I believe we have missed the whole point of the season.

Before I get to that point, however, let’s remember that we do live in the United States of America, which was, in part, founded upon religious freedom. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Also, while the US is a mostly Christian nation – 70 percent based on the 2014 US Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center – we have no national religion; 30 percent of us come from non-Christian faiths (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and others) as well as those who are unaffiliated like atheists and agnostics.

Again, we are free to choose.

The Interfaith Calendar, from the Mall Area Religious Council in Minnesota, lists 40 religious observances from major world religions which are observed from November through January, many of which are not Christian.

More importantly than all of that, though, and back to my main point: what is the purpose of Christmas?

This answer could differ, even among Christians.

But I think most of us agree that it is a time to rejoice in the birth of our Savior. A season to not only remember him but also renew our commitment to be more like Him.

Earlier this month, Pastor Scott Moon, FUMC Maryville, wrote an Advent column in our paper, “Don’t just observe Christmas…Experience Christmas!” He said: “This year, do whatever it takes to step away from the mere observance of a holiday and enter into the experience of God’s love and grace which is at the heart of Christmas.”

His words reminded me of something I love from Dieter F. Uchtdorf: “If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us get caught up in the chaos of Christmas – the shopping, the decorating, the baking. Those can all lend to the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of giving but many times they become a distraction and we end up acting more like Scrooge than Tiny Tim.”

Choosing to be offended by someone saying Happy Holidays, or by a plain red Starbucks cup, or anything else, makes us act more like Scrooge and takes away from the experience of Christmas, the love, the joy, the giving.

The way we can truly keep Christ in Christmas is through our actions.

I’m grateful for that young 19-year-old Jewish girl from New York who reminded me of that, not just this time of year, but always.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

Even those who say Happy Holidays.