HUMILITY… A LOST ART by Virginia Burton Stringer
One of the worst injustices, in today’s society, is the loss of humility. A sense of entitlement seems to be pervasive, from toddlers demanding toys in the store aisles, to teenagers, who expect parents to foot the bill for limousines and hotel rooms on prom night. It’s as if the world owes these youngsters a living, with no responsibility from them. A key indicator of this phenomenon is the universal response, from the Millennials and those much younger, to a simple, “Thank you”. It always seems to be, “No problem,” as if it could have been a problem to perform some simple act of kindness or render a service, but he/she is giving us all a break. The response should be, a gracious and humble, “You’re welcome.”
In our efforts to make sure our children have high self esteem, we have constantly bolstered them with words of praise, fearing the least little negative will permanently scar their delicate psyches, beyond repair. This has led to a generation of people parenting yet another generation, who has no concept of unpretentiousness.
Humility is defined, by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, as “the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people: the quality or state of being humble.” Synonyms include meekness; modesty; demureness, while some antonyms are arrogance; conceit; egotism; haughtiness; pomposity… shall I go on? Our attempts to insure our children are confident and capable of caring for themselves, as adults, has taken an unexpected swing in the opposite direction. In addition, our children are constantly bombarded with media depictions of brash, brazen entertainers performing in music videos, movies, social media creations, YouTube… it must be tough being a kid, these days, influenced by it all, while navigating toward social acceptance and adulthood.
Princess Maagy, the title character in my new novel, “Just Maagy”, is a spoiled brat, who demands what she wants with a stomped foot. However, when her father, King Henry, takes her to the Summer Castle, she is forced to live like an “ordinary person”, rather than a royal, and quickly learns the meaning of humility. She learns that, in order to lead a nation, one must first learn to follow instructions, do “ordinary” work and understand the people for whom she will be responsible, when she is the queen. She learns that the job is more than wearing the crown.
This is where we are failing our children, today. We have spent so much time bolstering their egos, we have neglected to teach them that humility is not a sense of worthlessness, but rather, a tool for growth and development. Scott H. Young wrote, in his March 2009 article, “Humility is More Important than Confidence”:
Humility is an asset for self-improvement. By remaining humble, you are receptive to opportunities to improve… Beyond personal success, humility is also a virtue for inner well-being.
So what now? I say, begin by teaching young children simple acts of caring… like feeding the dog… and then explaining how giving him food is such a simple task, but so important. Encourage random acts of kindness, like opening the door for someone or offering to carry a heavy bag or giving up a seat on the transit to an elderly person. Make sure young ones understand that helping with chores and taking care of their own space is the least they can do. Inspire children to volunteer and donate to charity… to give more than they receive… and always be mindful that no matter how smart or privileged or talented they are, there is always room for improvement, not to mention, it can all be gone in a heartbeat… and that is a truly humbling concept.
Buy Just Maagy on Amazon.com, author Virginia Burton Stringer.