The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Staying Humble

"At the end of the game, pawns and kings go back in the same box" — Italian proverb

The word humble comes from the Latin  humus , meaning 'earth'; and  humilis  – 'on the earth'. I love that link, because the  most humble people I know are just that — down to earth. If you can't be humble about your successes, and you can't be kind to those around you, then it doesn't really matter what else you can do or what else you are good at.

How to Grow

"Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less." — Rick Warren

Rick Warren's quote is so important to use with people of all ages, in this age of self-promotion.

If we want our children to be humble, we have to help them to understand their strengths and their weaknesses. We have to  encourage them to  realise that what we know and what we are able to do are not fixed. We must prompt them to see challenges as opportunities for learning and growth. We should also foster in them a strong sense of purpose. This will encourage them to seek out mentors — people who know more than them — in order for them to develop their skills and make their mark on the world. And we should urge young people to help others in the community, in order that they better appreciate their own lives. 

We can also develop humility in children by spending more time with them outdoors in nature. When they experience extraordinary beauty and vastness in nature, they also experience humility. They feel small, but at the same time appreciate that they are a part of something much larger. And we adults can show them what humility looks like by being honest with them about what we want to work on in our own lives.

The Lesson of Dick Bass

There is a wonderful story about Dick Bass, which I read about on Gretchen Rubin's website. The son of a Texas oil baron, Dick Bass was a ski-resort entrepreneur and often went on ambitious mountain-climbing expeditions. His achievements included being the first person to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents, as well as being the oldest person to climb Mount Everest, at the age of fifty-five. He was a guy with a big life and a big personality.

Once when Bass was on a trans-continental flight, he spent the time regaling his very nice seat mate with his adventures across all seven continents. He had climbed the dangerous peaks of Everest and McKinley, he had almost died in the Himalayas, and he was planning to climb Everest a second time.  As the plane started its descent, Bass realised that he had done all the talking. He said to the man sitting next to him: "After all this, I don't think I've introduced myself. My name is Dick Bass." The man shook his hand and responded, "That's okay. I'm Neil Armstrong. Nice to meet you."

We don't learn anything if all we ever do is talk about ourselves. We learn by listening to others and being curious about their lives and their experiences. That is the essence of humility: being willing to learn from others.