Sunday, 30 October 2011

I told you I was humble

Post by Ash

The address at New Meeting this morning was about the pathway, the continuum even, from humility to over-confidence and arrogance, that we all perhaps struggle to effectively accommodate throughout our lives. Sometimes it seems a constant battle-did I say the right thing, did I intervene appropriately,was I too outspoken, did I `back-off` when I should have said something ?

After the service we wandered in discussion if there were any contemporary examples of political leaders who had been convincing in achieving this `balance`. Was it really possible to attain such prominence in public life, and yet still be considered humble ? Isn`t this increasingly what we now desire from such leaders ? Has there been a lag between what the public want in this respect, and what politicians perceive is `best` for the public ?

A number of names were suggested; Mo Mowlam, Ann Widdecombe, and Mrs Thatcher. At least one of these suggestions might be considered contentious ! It was interesting that the immediate response resulted in female candidates being nominated; women are still in a serious minority when it comes to the world of politics in the UK.

Can we have humble leaders ?


  1. I do think it difficult to be an inspiring leader and be humble at the same time, and yes, perhaps women are better at it than men. I question, however,the validity of this statement with regard to two (not one!)of the ladies mentioned. Ann Widdecombe doesn't strike me as a shrinking violet and,as for our first lady prime minister, the least said about her the better. Graham (not Anonymous)

  2. I was thinking on this during my trip in to work today and I was reminded of the song by Mac Davis.

    "Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
    when you're perfect in every way.
    I can't wait to look in the mirror
    cause I get better looking each day.
    To know me is to love me
    I must be a hell of a man.
    Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
    but I'm doing the best that I can."

    Personally, what I want in a political leader is honesty and integrity. The humility comes in acknowledging that you are there as a public servant, not a member of a ruling class.

    I think Mrs Thatcher as prime minister did consider herself as a public servant, trying to do what was best for the country. I dislike the policies she came up with, but I admire and respect her as a politician. She decided on where she was going to go and stuck with it, rather than chopping and changing with every opinion poll. She may not have had humility, but she did have integrity.

  3. Agreed, Ian! She had integrity, if not humility.

  4. Labelling people and their behaviour with personality traits related to to vice and virtue can end up chastising good people and good behaviour because they happen to fall into a category that society has condemned. One definition of 'arrogance' is just the public display of self-affection; sometimes, this is a consequence of a good action; sometimes, it can even be useful in and of itself. Another is acting as if one is somehow kinder, more powerful or in some other way 'better' than one really is. Who is he who accuses someone of 'arrogance' to judge their worth?

    It is more helpful to think in terms of the consequences of a person's actions and make an overall assessment of their moral value on the basis of this (ethical consequentialism). This way, we shortcut through all the rhetoric and name-calling that clouds our judgement. We sidestep rhetorical point-scoring to make our own direct, rational, independent assessments.

    In the words of Marianne Williamson: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.' We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." --

  5. Instinctively I am tempted to go along with Ed. Also; Williamson’s sweeping statement on the consequences of how we project ourselves, seems far too laudable to refute; on first reading. But I’m must admit, I’m not completely convinced.

    Yes, labelling people is counterproductive. However, to assume that everyone who makes the critical observations which they do, are simply ‘labelling’ is not right. Admittedly the words we use may be inadequate to fully encompass or express what our actual opinions are, but that does not mean that they are arrived at without full consideration of many factors. The conclusion that someone is arrogant or humble may be the result of assessing performance, context, cultural relationship, action, motivation and intent, bias media coverage, passed history, and our own state of mind. Who can say that because we step aside from ‘point scoring’ that then our own reasoning process becomes rational.

    Ian’s definition of political humility, is for me, correct: servant not ruler. Even so, to presume that government can be cajoled, manipulated or steered, often in a direction that is opposed by those also of high political and intellectual stature, without a touch of arrogance, seems a tuff requirement. It could also be said that humility and arrogance are not cover all attributes; that we could be very humble in certain aspects of our lives and more arrogant in others. It could also be said that the final definition of the terms ‘humility and arrogance’ are as much dependant on the interpretation of the recipient of such behaviours as the perpetrator.

    That manifesting the Glory That Is God is allied to not hiding your light under a bushel is nonsense. To presume to know that all who live, and have lived, have shared the same ‘deepest fear’ of ‘being powerful’ is arrogance: it may apply to some, but there is no evidence to support it as a rule of life. ‘Playing small’ might be exactly what gives security, satisfaction and perspective in a particular person’s life. It could be the doorway to riches and wisdom, depending on your particular circumstances. If it’s truly part of your nature, then is it not likely that continuously acting completely against character will be highly self destructive. Again, making negative sweeping statements about playing small sounds like arrogance to me.
    To assume to know that that all people ‘shrink’ so as to not make others insecure, again is a absurd assumption with concern to both shrinker and the majority with whom we share the world, who I suspect do not feel this type of insecurity.

    Giving or not giving space is not about rights and concessions, it’s recognising that manifesting God in life is something we also do as a community, which may have a greater value for all and a wider benefit to all.

    No! We are not unconsciously giving permission to others to shine. How arrogant is that? We were born with that permission. Shining does not liberate us from fear, it simply provides enough glare to mask or hide it. Sometimes a subdued and carefully calibrated light can show much that is hidden, valuable and wise. To suggest that we liberate others through our own smug self belief, I would suggest, is also…You get the picture.

    I would agree that we should question who it is that puts themselves up to ‘judge’; as to their own worth? However, occasionally some people are arrogant simply because they are right and that they dare to be right whatever the consequences. And who out there can judge the inner joy that the most humble of us might experience in the quiet of our lives. Sorry Marianne you’re just too presuming for me.
    As for politicians. Most of the work they do is done quietly, behind closed doors, often in their own time, unheralded, unacknowledged, and unknown. Most of what we know about the actual job politicians do is based on blind ignorance. The miracle is, is that sometimes they actually get it right, while fighting for what they believe in. Then they have the arrogance to expect to be appreciated for it, occasionally.