Owning your differences, while respecting others uniqueness

This post is part of a 4-post series on humility that began yesterday.

I am not sure when I really started to get it. I can think of moments along the way. When I was the only kid in my sixth grade class that voted for George H. W. Bush in the 1992 Presidential Election (though 1 other kid voted for Perot). When I sought work in politics just out of high school. Or even when a life in ministry was actually appealing as a 20-something. I was different, and I owned that.

The reality was, that while I was learning to appreciate my own differences, it wasn’t until my mid-20s that I really began to appreciate the uniqueness I found in others. No, not just my friends, schoolmates, and co-workers. I mean the person living in the homeless shelter, the family struggling to make ends meet while working multiple jobs and getting assistance from the government, or even those people whose lives had been broken by addiction. I had previously either overlooked or discarded these people.

Two of the core realities of the humility construct are a willingness to learn/teachability and a willingness to see the strengths of others. While I had grown in my willingness to examine myself accurately, I had not often given the same right to others. When you  step back and open yourself up to learning from others and appreciating who they are (regardless of the baggage we all carry), something amazing happens.

My life has grown so much from people who are different than I am. They share with me their stories and allow me into their world which looks and feels nothing like my existence. These are amazing and humbling moments in which you understand that the world is much greater than just your own perspective.

Through others giving me permission to learn their story, I find that even in most of vast disagreement we can do so providing dignity, honor, and respect for one another and how we have reached our conclusions, values, and actions.  I have owned my differences for years, but now I continue to learn how to respect the uniqueness of others.

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It’s Not About Me!

One of my favorite subjects to discuss (and the focus of my dissertation) is humility. This often misunderstood phenomenon is one of the most needed, yet least found character traits in Western society today. But what actually is humility?

This weekend, I will be helping to lead a group of teens to engage a theme that is contrary to just about every notion recognizable in culture today: “It’s Not About Me!” Society screams that the me-centric lifestyle is a must in our (disgusting) over-emphasis on self in our technology (MySpace was followed by Facebook was followed by the Selfie as king or queen of the average teen). While a decade and a half ago when I was growing up we did emphasize self-esteem, I think we were able to differentiate that construct from the seeming self-addiction that clouds our culture today. But what can actually be done about the me-cravings?

The first thing that can be done is to point toward positive examples of humility. These examples are present, and even the media will pick up on them every now and again, but the problem is we put so much attention on the Biebers, Lohans, and Kardashians of the world (not to mention all of the media hungry individuals that seem to pop up on reality TV) that we have drowned out the people that consistently show care and concern for others, aren’t self-absorbed, and seek to serve.

The second thing to be done is to encourage people to know themselves enough that they don’t have to be absorbed with themselves. That is the irony of our society, we are probably more self-focused than at any other time in history, but yet we seem to really not even know (or be willing to admit what we know about) ourselves.

From now through Monday, humility will be the major focus of this space (with Friday being a special edition of “Coaching Corner” on humility), as we work to promote other-focused individuals, teams, and organizations that truly get the importance of caring for one another so that we all can grow – together!

Stay tuned!