The Seven Living Virtues*: Humility

Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.  ― H. Jackson Brown Jr.


Humility doesn’t mean you don’t accept your strengths or that you aren’t confident in your abilities. What it means is that you don’t think you’re a better human being than others because of those strengths and abilities.  It means you have perspective of who you are in the grander scheme of life and in other people’s lives.

Being humble also doesn’t mean you have to be shy or reserved, but it does mean that you are not arrogant.

Being humble means recognizing that although you excel at some things, others excel at different things. When you’re not in your area of expertise, defer those who are. At the very least don’t act like your command over one area makes you an authority in all areas.

Here are some ways to cultivate humility:


Accept humiliation

If the server spills a drink on you, the hotel loses your reservation, or a colleague forgets your name, don’t take it personally. Life has embarassing moments, and part of being humble is accepting them.

Accept Valid Authority

From time to time, a celebrity gets pulled over and makes the headlines for ranting at the police officer. This is not an example of humble behavior.

Lawyers deal with this daily. They may be the named partners at their firms, but when in front of a judge arguing a case, they recognize that they’re no longer in charge.

If lawyers can be humble, you can, too.

Acknowledge Other Greatness

Whether it’s your higher self, a higher power, or simply those in your field who are better than you, acknowledge that there is something bigger out there than you.

Think better of others than of yourself

Find reasons to appreciate the good qualities in others, and recognize and acknowledge their greatness.

Give proper credit

Chances are, you excel at what you do because of others who support you: A coach, a spouse who provides emotional support, a manager or an agent who gets you the right gigs. Always recognize those who help you, and remember where you’d be without them.

Consider if you would like others who act like you do

Do you brag about your accomplishments? Do you make sure everyone knows how much you give to charity or how much you paid for your house?  Do you get angry and self-righteous the minute anything goes wrong?

What do you think of others who do those things? You can use the bad behavior of others, as well as the good, as a model for how to be humble.


* The seven living virtues are the positive version of seven deadly sins. This entry is part of a seven-part series:

  1. Fortitude
  2. Honor
  3. Compassion
  4. Charity
  5. Acceptance
  6. Forgiveness
  7. Humility

The idea is to learn to recognize and cultivate these traits in yourself, and to recognize and appreciate others who have them, with the intention of being happier and more fulfilled while on the path to accomplishing your goals.


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