Sunday, April 6, 2014

Six Pillars of Civility - Humility


Humility is the second of the Six Pillars of Civility. These six pillars evolved from a theory I have been developing about civility and how it pertains to our lives and our interconnectedness with everything around us. I hope you will occasionally stop and consider how these foundational principles are at play in your life, the lives of your family and the broader community in which you live and work.


I remember many years ago while I was living in New York, a group of friends got together and formed an organization similar to the Make a Wish Foundation. Nothing can be more humbling than reaching out to a child whom you know will not grow into a young adult. Granting him or her a wish, showering some happiness and temporary relief from the harsh realities of life is a true act of kindness. Reading all of the applications and deciding from a needs-based assessment which child’s wish will be granted is an onerous task. When the committee of volunteer fundraisers met, the first rule was to “check your attitude at the door”. Enter this gathering with positive intentions in order to grant a wish. Think beyond yourselves and consider what it will mean to someone in great need of joy. We all need to be reminded from time to time that there are many people in the world who are sustained by the kindness of others. Humility reminds us that on almost every level, we are all equals. The continued success of this group and many, many others similar to it, testifies to just how important this service is to both the givers and the receivers.

Connecting on a level of humility exposes us to ourselves and to others in ways that can overstep our comfort zones. We gain new perspectives when we allow ourselves to embrace others. We naturally try to protect ourselves from fear and insecurity but learn that we must take risks in order to benefit those in need. I say take the risk. These connections are often the strongest and most meaningful and intimate that we will ever be lucky enough to make.



It is not uncommon in the workplace to hear people bandy around the word humility, where it is often misunderstood. To me, in a nutshell, it boils down to the core principle that there are no 'big shots'. No matter what our professional position or achievements, no matter our social station, and no matter our wealth or education, we all have great value. This is not to say that we cannot hold people in high regard, or that without them our lives would be less fulfilling. But the shoe is often on the other foot, and we too are held in high regard and help to fulfill others’ lives more times than we may ever know.

In a healthy business climate, teamwork is vitally important. This dynamic is sadly missing in too many workplaces today and has a severe effect on a company’s bottom line. A lack of humility, especially at the highest levels, is also one of the main reasons why so many good employees leave to find employment with companies where such a toxic climate is not present.


Take a moment to consider what the humility level is in your place of employment, especially if you are an executive. Good leaders are measured by their ability to make their employees feel valuable, and ought to reflect the performance of leadership. If there is a weak link in your business, taking a look at your humility meter may be a good idea!

Any responsible company should be acutely aware of this sort of frightening attrition rate and act quickly to reverse it. Sadly, reversing such a dynamic within a company takes time. Sometimes it never even happens. In the meantime, scores of employees’ lives are being negatively affected. Is this how we want to be treating one another? Think about it!



Humility is a human quality that we usually display with equal ignorance or skill whether at home, on the ball field, or at work. Being kind and understanding needs to begin at home. For those of us who were raised to believe that people are of different value, we need to stop and as any GPS system will instruct – Recalculate! The next generation needs to be raised in a sustainable environment where everyone reveres humility. Let’s try to practice the essentials of self worth, how we relate to others, the value of socialization, and an all-encompassing outlook of how each of us fits into the world puzzle.