Humility and truth are good things, but humility is better. Here is why.
Imagine you are driving on a highway you have never driven before in a foreign country. Your map app has failed you and you are on your own. You take an exit, turn onto a boulevard, and after a few seconds you realize you are going the wrong way down a one-way street.
What is your response? It is to turn around or get off the road as soon as possible. Now, you may not think of that as a “humble” response, only a necessary one. But it qualifies as humble in this way: you have adapted to the truth of your situation. It is a one-way street, and you had best accommodate that reality.
Now, let us say that in those few seconds, a police officer sees what happens and comes to you.
“Sorry, officer,” you say, “this is my first day in the country, and I did not know.”
The officer has two choices. He may say, “That’s fine, you immediately course-corrected. I will let you off this time.” Or he could say, “First day or last, you broke the law. Here’s the fine.” But the fact that he even has two choices – one of them being to let you off the hook – is predicated on your humble response to your error. Do you see how humility creates that possibility?
When you adapt to the truth of your situation, it opens the door for creative outcomes.
Let us take the scenario further. You find yourself driving the wrong way on the one-way street and decide, “There’s not that many cars and this makes for a short cut; I will drive the wrong way.” In this case, you are not adapting to the truth of how this street operates; you are willfully placing your purpose over and above it. You are making yourself the center and causing any oncoming drivers to adapt to you rather than the other way around.
Now, let us say the police officer sees you driving for an extended distance down that one-way street and pulls you over. You may say to him, “Sorry, but it’s my first day in the country and I saw a short cut.” How likely is it that the officer will accommodate you? Not likely at all. For you have willfully overridden the rule of the road. There is no humility in your position. Therefore the officer has only one possibility before him regarding you: to enforce the law.
This is why, in the pairing of humility and truth, humility is to be preferred. For humility informs your sincerity, and when you are sincerely wrong, there is the possibility of being shown mercy – or at least a tempered judgment if the law must be enforced. But to be willfully wrong in the face of the truth of a matter is to eliminate the possibility of mercy. The future narrows down to one outcome. There is no creative alternative.
Humility informs our desire for efficiency and control with a better value: discovering new possibilities.
Now, let us completely reverse the matter to prove the point that humility is better. Let us say you are driving the correct direction down that one-way street, but you are in a hurry. “If I speed a bit, I will cut my travel time,” you say. “If I slalom the cars, I will get to my goal faster.” And so, in spite of the startling of other drivers and the frustration you cause them, you get ahead. (True, they all catch up to you at the next red light, but at least you won that lap of the race!)
Do you see the tension both in and around you? This is because, even though you have adapted to the truth of the rule of the road, others are not experiencing your truth as love. You cannot enjoy the journey, for you are only thinking about yourself. All others become hindrances to your goal because you lack humility.
Humility may not ensure efficiency. It may not give you control of a situation. But it does prop open the door of possibilities. You need those possibilities. You need grace for your journey.
© Kurt MählerTagged as: desertwisdom, ethical leadership, humility, livingfluently, virtue