"Humility is a virtue. Timidity is an illness." (Jim Rohn). "True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." (C.S. Lewis).
One of the most challenging aspects of parenthood, in my opinion, is teaching the difference between these two attributes.
It was easy to say "Treat others the way you want to be treated," etc.
But it's far more complicated to teach the balance between good self-esteem and selfishness, and self-pride without arrogance, especially when some of the feelings, circumstances and life events can seemingly confuse the difference between humility and timidity.
I grew up understanding that being "meek and humble" is Godly and being proud and confident is NOT Godly.
However, especially in recent years, I've learned that looking at things in such an extreme manner is not truthful or helpful.
“Humility allows us to celebrate the gifts of others, but it does not mean you have to deny your own gifts or shrink from using them,” stated Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Indeed, even the Bible itself says the following in Luke 14:10-11 about taking a seat at a wedding one is invited to:
"10 Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The arrogant person chooses the seat at the head of the table without first checking with the host; they will suffer the embarrassment of being cocky when the host asks them to take a lesser seat.
It is precisely in KNOWING who you are and how secure you are within yourself that allows you to have the wisdom to know that it is the wedding host's decision, not yours, of where you should be seated.
Those who are insecure are always craving attention and seeking to put themselves first. Those who know their own abilities and station don't have to desperately seek recognition by showing everyone how important they are.
In the age of social media excess, desperately needing attention has become the very abnormal "norm." With young people observing how many followers they have (to the point of having separate software that alerts the user who "follows" and "unfollows" their social media), how many "likes" tally up, over-sharing personal information on social media, etc. it's no wonder young people are not finding appropriate ways to feel confident and even-keeled emotionally.
The same truth is relevant now as it has always been: truly confident people know themselves and are genuinely kind.
I always told my kids, if you know someone who puts others down and acts mean, they're doing that because they feel a need to make others feel lesser than themselves and only insecure people do that.
The kids who are truly the best at what they do compliment and build others up because they are the truly confident ones.
They already know they are smart/talented/capable. Or simply that they are good being who they are. These individuals take compliments well, and give them out freely. They seek to build others up because they are so self-assured – they don't feel that their status is threatened.
Sometimes it can be confusing for young people to tell the difference in behaviors. I decided to come up with a list of attributes that may help with this:
A person who is accomplished and happy with themselves and is not smug or vain exhibits humility.
• Modest, but without self-doubt
• Confident, but not showy
• Proud, but with elegance and class
• Vulnerable, but empowered
• Able to put others first without sacrificing their own needs
• Recognizes self-weaknesses and seeks to improve
• Admits errors and mistakes, apologizes and takes responsibility
They are NOT:
• Resentful of other's success
A humble person naturally attracts people with their positive energy and attitude; they always make others feel important – and they win respect and admiration not only through what they accomplish, but how they treat others in all situations.
A person who cannot feel self-pride and is full of self-doubt exhibits timidity. Sometimes timidity can initially appear like sweetness or gentleness, but if what's underneath that behavior is actually insecurity, self-doubt and negativity, the person is going to exhibit behaviors that are self-destructive as well as destructive to others in the long run.
They are ARE:
• Full of self-doubt
• Unable to exhibit vulnerability and create walls to isolate themselves from true emotional connection with others
• Defensive – refuses to acknowledge or accept personal weaknesses in order to improve
• Cannot accept their own errors or mistakes, blames others instead looking inside the self
They are NOT:
• Able to grow emotionally
• Open to new experiences
• Able to make life changes to improve their circumstance
• Able to love themselves, or others
Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker summed up the comparisons between humility and timidity as follows:
"Timidity should not be confused with humility –
• Timidity is comfortable with the ‘status quo’ (the present mess). Humility seeks to be better.
• Timidity will stay in the comfort zone for as long as possible. Humility seeks knowledge and will strive to learn and get better.
• Timidity says ‘I can’t do it! ‘Someone else should do it’ ‘I can’t take the risk’. Humility says ‘How can I be better at it?’ ‘Who do I need to help me with it?’ How do I learn to do it?’
• Timidity expresses laziness and fear! Humility expresses courage and trust."
Why does any of this matter? Well, because the most satisfaction comes out of continuously improving ourselves and reaping the satisfaction out of doing that. What parent would want to raise children who behave otherwise?
A Forbes article stated (Coaches, Let's Not Confuse Humility With Timidity, September 18. 2018): "There is a delicate balance between accepting where we are weak in order to facilitate growth and development while also recognizing where we are empowered, strong and fully capable of making our own decisions. After all, if we don’t pay full attention to strengths, in addition to asking reflective questions that rely on humility, we’ll end up whitewashing the very gifts that will propel us forward."
While all of this may seem like common sense, what I tend to observe is that the confident person who presents himself/herself with humility is keenly self-aware and is constantly looking for self-improvement and achieves it for their betterment, and consequently, the betterment of those around them.
The person who is under confident and presents themselves with timidity often is not self-aware and is too fearful to examine their own behaviors to make any positive self-change. They and others around them suffer for it.
Helping children, teens and young adults self-assess doesn't mean continually pointing out what they do wrong; rather, it's developing questions to ask that young person what they could do differently/how they could view a circumstance in another way/what they would like their life to be like that helps that person decide to empower themselves from feeling helpless (timidity) to being empowered (humility).
As my children grow older, I see the importance of this, and I am now on a mission to do this properly.
And although I didn't hear this growing up, here's what I can go on from the Bible:
2 Timothy 1:7
"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control."
What a wonderful way to live, not only for our own benefit but as a way to present a model for others.
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