The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions. – Confucius
What does that mean?
This quote reminds me to be wary of the boastful and the prideful. These people are not modest in their speech. Some may have accomplished much, but there are ways of letting the world know of your abilities without being immodest. Just let your work speak for itself. I brought Faye along to help me with this one because, well, she's become my moral check in life (don't forget to say hi to her!)
The quote continues by urging us to put our effort into our actions, to exceed there, not in our speech. Think about it. It’s one thing to have someone tell you how good they are, promote themselves and be boastful. It’s quite different to have someone show their excellence by simply showing you their work.
Which is the more pleasant experience?
Why is modesty important?
Let’s start with the two primary forms of immodesty. There are those who have done little or nothing, yet talk about how great they are. They are annoying, but not as annoying as those who have done great things and can’t stop talking about how good they are. Personally, while the former is annoying, the latter is insufferable.
How about you, which one do you like less?
Modesty is the opposite of these things. Modesty doesn’t brag, it doesn’t put others down, it doesn’t hog credit, nor does it attempt to escape blame. Modesty helps people cooperate and work towards a common goal, as no one feels they are being cut out or marginalized.
Where can I apply this in my life?
I never really understood those who felt a need to shout from the mountain tops just how good they were. I have always attributed this behavior to doubt, lack of self esteem, or doubt about their talents. I’m sure that if there are any professional psychiatrists reading this, they would probably state that I was over-generalizing, and I’m sure they would be right.
What kind of person are you?
Do you regularly brag on yourself?
Or do you diminish your accomplishments while talking up those of others around you?
Or are you somewhere in-between?
I tend to be more towards the latter than the former, but can (at times) venture more towards the former. I’m not asking the question to embarrass or otherwise annoy you, but to get you to look candidly at how you behave. To me, being honest with yourself is necessary before any meaningful change can be made.
How do you tend to react when you have achieved success? How do you behave when things fall apart?
How generous are you with credit, and how do you allocate blame?
Humanity is largely a team sport. Very few people get anywhere in life without the help of others. How you treat your team of helpers says a lot about you, and helps define your reputation (how others perceive your character).
If you are generous with credit, and take more than your fair share of the blame, you are a team player. If you were in charge of the event, you become a leader that people would like to follow.
Grab some paper and write down how you handled the credit and blame for the last few projects you worked on, at home, at work, with a group of friends or with a group of volunteers. Try to get a couple successes on your list, as well as a few failures.
Look at the list and write down, on a scale of 1 to 10, what you think of how you handled the situation. In this case, I’d say that a 1 is an event you wish you could erase not only from your memory, but from the memory of everyone else who was there, and a 10 is an event you wish a documentary crew had filmed and had given out hot dogs so everyone could learn from your awesomeness, I mean skillful handling of the situation.
Think about what went wrong in each situation or how you could have dealt with the situation in a better way. What changes would you have to make in your attitude and beliefs to automatically change your behavior?
Now consider how you might make a habit of being more modest in your life. Try to come up with at least three ideas. Now select one of them and come up with a plan to make the change. Do you need to take a few moments and write down the significant parts that others played, so you can call them by name?
While this is aimed at ‘normal’ people, there are plenty of self-important people out there who really could use some help. Try not to be one of them, and try to help any people you see straying in that direction. Watching someone being modest is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen and I'm lucky, I get to see Faye do it every day.
Thanks Faye, you inspired this post...