Have you ever been in agony?
I’m talking, heart-breaking, water-the-lawn-with-your-tears kind of agony?
If you have, was any small part of that situation due to your own actions?
Sometimes, the answer is no.
You did nothing to deserve the hurt you experience, it’s just one of those things.
But more often than not, the pain you and I experience is at least in part due to our own mistakes and bad choices.
And the most tragic thing is, it’s all so unnecessary.
In life, it’s not possible to avoid pain completely, but we fallible humans often experience avoidable agony, or make situations even worse for ourselves because we suffer from one little five-letter ailment that has leeched onto EVERY human from the beginning of time…
Alexander the Pained?
Thousands of years ago, a young prince became king of Macedon at the ripe old age of 20.
Alexander the Great wasn’t called “the Great” for nothing:
At age 10, Alexander tamed a horse no one else could manage, and by 16, he had quelled a revolt and founded his own city — which he named after himself.
But Alexander was proud, too proud.
He apparently believed his mother when she told him he was not really his father’s son, but the son of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods himself.
When an old friend tried to warn Alexander about his quickly inflating ego, Alexander killed him.
And at age 32, Alexander developed a horrible illness and died.
Like the Biblical story of the Herod, who was struck down when he set himself up as a god, Alexander too was felled in the prime of life when he thought himself a god.
Or maybe not.
Learning From Lincoln
On the other end of the spectrum, America’s 16th president also died young, but not before abolishing slavery, saving the country, and laying the foundation for a thriving United States.
Instead of setting himself up as some kind of god, Abraham Lincoln himself once wrote: “I was born and have ever remaind [sic] in the most humble walks of life.”
And when enemies like Edwin Stanton insulted him (calling him a “baboon”!), Lincoln didn’t get mad and try to decapitate him. He actually hired him. To be the Secretary of War.
Lincoln saw past Stanton’s insults and chose him because he was good at his job. By the time of Lincoln’s death, Stanton had done a 180 on the president he once hated. This bitter enemy became one of Lincoln’s most devoted friend. Why?
Because he saw Lincoln’s greatness in his humility.
Pride = Pain
If you’ve ever stewed over an insult, snapped at innocent bystanders, gotten upset at being ignored, or wondered why “lesser” people do better than you, you’ve been a victim of pride.
Pride causes us to be overly sensitive to insults and injuries. It decreases our emotional pain tolerance and makes us fragile, weak, and easily hurt.
But there is one powerful strategy we can use to avoid the majority of the emotional pain we inflict on ourselves:
But it can be extremely hard to humble yourself.
Not just because people are naturally inclined to be prideful, but because the word “humility” itself is riddled with myths:
Common Humility Myths
There are at least three common myths related to humility that discourage people from training themselves to be humble.
But the truth is…
Humble People Aren’t Pushovers
Humble people don’t allow themselves to be doormats. They have boundaries, not only for their own good, but for the good of other people as well.
After all, people who violate boundaries will get themselves in trouble sooner or later, so if you want to be good to others you need to teach them to treat you well.
That doesn’t mean looking down on them, but it doesn’t mean looking up, either, as if they were on some pedestal.
Humble people know their principles. They take responsibility for themselves and show others to be responsible for their own lives as well.
Humble People Aren’t Self-Haters
It’s been said,
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
In other words, humility means spending more time and energy thinking of others than yourself.
That doesn’t mean you abuse or neglect yourself, but that you consider others and act for their good.
If you “hate yourself” that is not true humility.
Because you’re spending so much time picking over your faults, you have no time or energy left to think of others.
Truly humble people have a healthy love and respect for themselves and others.
Humble People Aren’t Cowards
Humble people aren’t nice.
They don’t say things just to make others like them, they don’t act friendly in order to manipulate people, they don’t shy away from difficult battles to protect their own skins.
Like Desmond Doss, the WWII war hero who risked his life to save 75+ men under enemy fire (without a single weapon!), truly humble people are brave enough to bear insults, forgive enemies, and do good to those who don’t necessarily always deserve it.
So…Why Humble Yourself?
Because if you don’t, life has a way of doing it to you sooner or later.
Besides, the taller a pedestal you put yourself on, the more it’ll hurt when someone knocks you down.
In an anecdote from the Bible, Jesus once told his followers not to seek the best seat at a banquet because it’s better to sit at the foot of the table and be asked to move up, than to seat yourself at the head of the table and be humiliated when you’re asked to move down.
But how do you practice humility yourself, so that you don’t need to have it forced on you?
Here are 5 ideas:
- Don’t talk too much. As a wise man once wrote, “when words are many, sin is not absent.” Think before you speak and try to say more with your actions than with your tongue.
- Listen more. Listening helps you to focus more on others’ needs and forget your own self-preoccupation.
- Confide in a friend. It’s okay to admit you’re not perfect. Allow a trusted friend or family member to see your true self, good, bad, and ugly, and give them permission to tap you if they ever spot your pride getting the best of you.
- Spend time with humble people. People rub off on each other. So if you want to be a healthy, happy, humble person, find other people just like that to learn from.
- Be afraid. Fear can be good when it’s directed in the right direction. Show me a person who isn’t afraid of muggers in a dangerous city and I’ll show you a silly person who gets mugged in a dark alley. You should treat pride like a mugger. It’s always trying to get you, so be wary and don’t let it win!
There’s a Reason Why Pride Goes Before a Fall
Sadly, most of us have to experience the bitterness of a pride-induced fall before we fully understand the value of humility.
Yes, we’ve all heard of famous, successful people who were proud and arrogant.
But they did not lead happy lives, and most of them suffered terrible, lonely ends.
In contrast, those who are the most successful and respected in the long run are usually those who voluntarily humble themselves.
So, learn from ones who have gone before you.
Learn from your own mistakes.
Don’t let pride cause you any more unnecessary agony.
Humble yourself, and be happy.
Ready to be a Brilliant Writer?
I’ve created The Brilliant Writer Checklist to help you clarify your message, reach more readers, and change the world with your words.