Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Thirteen, Q1

Humility: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

Personal notes:

  • Focus on being humble. Reign in being proud or rude.
  • Pull together the other lessons learned in Tranquility, Acceptance, Sincerity, etc.
  • Put to use here and now! Especially when dealing with current issues.
  • Don’t confuse humility with self depreciating behavior.

At the start of the English Premier League’s season I noticed an irresistible uniform, Leicester City’s home jersey. You see, I love the color blue, my last name is Power and I’m not shy: the perfect combination for a blue jersey boldly emblazoned with “King Power” across the chest.  King Power, however, was a misnomer; the team was horrible and narrowly avoided being sent to the minors with the rest of the bums in 2015. No matter, I wore the shirt, a loving gift from my wife, to dim-lit bars and watched with awe as an innocent season became spectacular.

Leicester City won England’s Premier League this week after starting at an improbable 5,000 to 1 odds. The club that came from nothing humbled the giants, leaving England, and most the soccer world, stunned. If there’s a lesson here, it is this: when I buy a team’s jersey, they win championships.

Ok, that’s more of a punchline than a lesson, but when I thought about humility this week, I thought about myself, some of my accomplishments and talents, and how I often turn them into a joke. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it comes from the military, where those who are true to the institution never self-promote, or maybe not. Wherever it stems, the inability to self-promote is a horrible trait in a world of self-promoters; to avoid self-promotion, I took the opposite tact of self deprecation. Instead of appreciating what I had, I downplayed it, took an easy laugh and avoided discussion.

It took a while to realize both paths are wrong: one is filled with pride, the other false humility. Today, I spend my days behind this laptop, writing thoughts, struggling with prose, excusing myself to pick up my girls from school, make them lunch and maybe quietly lie next to them as they nap. Most days, nothing makes me happier than watching them nap, but on other days I’m plagued with fear: I’m wasting a career, I’m not bringing in income, I’m not meeting expectations of parents, teachers, seniors and strangers. It’s a struggle.

Despite the struggle, this situation is the right one, a step back from the frenetic pace to find what matters. Our time keeps slipping away.  Too soon, I won’t have the time to lay next to my daughter or worse, she won’t have time for me. Do I want to spend that precious time crafting scathing emails in my head, for a subject, or person, that’s trivial? Or would I rather spend that time listening to my daughter’s calming breath?

Before, I chased moments, forever moving from one event to the next, never satisfied. Every day felt like the first Monday back from vacation. I was dying from dehydration, remembering my last sip of water, rather than digging a well. Realize that true happiness comes from humility, virtue, family, and not toys, income and comparison. There are still storms, but I’m finally learning to sail on calmer waters.

C.S. Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”