Humility at Home
by Frank Hopkins
Family keeps us humble. No matter how successful we become, our families will remember us as we were, and they will gleefully at times remind us that we came from more “humble” beginnings.
There’s nothing like a mom to make you rethink your outfit or a big brother to question your argument. I know when I’m coaching my clients I STILL hear my mother’s voice in my ear reminding me to be quiet and listen, or I see my polished (or not) shoes through her eyes. On some level, being “too big for my britches” can’t happen because of my family and how they anchor me and keep me humble.
In my house, one of the best ways to have deep conversations is over dinner. Sharing great food while sharing your heart deepens the connections we all make, and besides, who doesn’t feel better with a full tummy? Whether it’s dinner with your family, a dinner party with friends, or a neighborhood crawfish boil – getting together over food is a great setting for thoughtful, extended conversations. In our house, dinner is sometimes messy, sometimes hectic and occasionally reflective. My wife and I certainly try to cover the major, important topics, but we’re not perfect.
One way to have a meaningful conversation is by sharing and discussing one virtue for modern life during each dinner. Humility is one of the values I hold most dear, so a week back we decided to dig into that virtue over dinner. I have very smart kids and have worked hard to instill humility in them and do my best to model it. My wife is better at it, but I work hard. We discussed how one values and tries to act with humility in work and personal life. There were lots of interesting questions to ask:
• what are the differences between humility and modesty?
• what is the relationship between humility and success?
We all know that there are SO MANY loud voices clamoring for our attention in the media – in your life, do quieter tones receive any attention at all? Now that my kids are older we can talk more philosophically about these ideas. We have managed, at times, to discuss the fact that humility involves encouraging others, finding the company of those who may be more creative or talented than ourselves (as opposed to being threatened by or jealous of them). We’ve also discussed the fact that humility is self-evident when we understand ourselves as part of something bigger within the large sweep of history and faith: looking years back and thinking years forward.
Talking about humility as a matter of course, not as a matter of highbrow conversation, makes it something of everyday life. It goes toward normalizing the process of reflection. (And who among us couldn’t use a bit more reflection?) Building that into your family routine is much easier than it sounds. I’m looking forward to tackling another virtue together.
All of this being said, as a father of two, I find it humbling indeed when I run face first into the wisdom of a 15-year-old daughter. I ask at the table, “So, what is humility?” Ready with the answer she replies, “the act of being humble.” Right dad? Yes, sweetie, and now, why is it important in our lives? She replies without a second thought: “Because you don’t want people to think you are a jerk.” And folks, there you have it.