I am reading The Road to Character, by New York Times Columnist David Brooks. It’s caused me to think about what makes a fulfilling life and how to become more humble, kind and self-sacrificing.
What exactly is humility? Humility is not difficult to define (though it’s hard to embody). It means not thinking we’re more important than anyone else, including those who’ve achieved less than us. And it implies judging ourselves not in comparison with others, but in light of our capabilities, and the goals we’ve set in our lives. Tall order.
Brooks says that our obsession with individual achievement and self-worth has gone too far. He cites to a 1950s, Gallup poll which asked high school seniors if they considered themselves to be a very important person. Just 12 percent said yes. When the same question was asked 50 years later, 80 percent of students said they thought they are very important.
Why this huge cultural shift toward inflated self-worth? Well, we’ve become a culture focused on our own importance and believing that success leads to happiness and a meaningful life. I’d argue the exact opposite – it leads to narcissism and loneliness.
Let’s think about this for a second:
To have a truly fulfilling life of humility and character, we must learn how to let go of our perceived importance. To forget ourselves.
And, how can we succeed at this notion of humility and character? I think the answer is through our friendships.
We likely can agree that it takes about three seconds to figure out if someone we meet is genuine. I’ve made the mistake in my life of not going with my gut on that one and I’ve spent years regretting such decisions. I’ve also gone with my gut and now have some life-changing friendships!
Even our ancient writers (Aristotle, Montaigne, for example) wrote that while one can go without marriage, justice, or honor — one cannot live without genuine friendships. You know the kind I’m talking about …. the ones where all your secrets, fears and joys are shared, and then loved and respected.
How is it that for some people this seems to come so naturally? Here’s what I’ve noticed about my life-altering friendships:
- They ask questions. Questions they really are curious about.
- They listen and don’t talk while listening.
- They can perceive what is not being said but is felt.
- They are vulnerable enough so that it makes it easier to share.
- They are humble and have humility.
Know any of those people? They are indispensable to life.
Let’s change our self-absorbed culture through our friendships? Why don’t we teach our children the importance of being a good friend? Or about humility? When we leave here will look back on what we did for ourselves or for others?
What better gift for the collective consciousness of the world than being less “me” and more everything else.
Food for thought.
Have an amazing weekend, my friends!