Humility means appropriating an honest sense of one person’s worth relative to an others worth. The truth is, we all have equal value. Once we accept that we share the same value as another, two things will happen: We will appreciate others more and we will appreciate our own worth more. We think of humility as seeing ourselves as lowly or less than others. In fact, humility is just the opposite. It is embracing a realistic look at our frailties as well as our strength and then believing that we, just as other mothers do who have their own frailties and strengths, share inordinate value. We can love others because we can accept and love ourselves in our –less- than-perfect states.
Humility brings extraordinary freedom. When we lower ourselves, refuse to admit our strengths and gifts, or live with false modesty, we lower all mothers. Many of us do this without even realizing that we are doing it. Consider the following exchange I recently heard. Many of us mothers can identify.
At a large women’s conference in Michigan, my friend Jill was the session’s lecturer. She asked for two volunteers and selected Laura and Ellen from the sea of hands. They told her they were longtime friends. To Ellen she asked, “Would you describe your friend Laura to the audience, please?” Ellen was happy to comply and described Laura as kind, a good listener, easy to talk to, fun to be with, and a good mother. She told everyone that she cherishes Laura so much as a person that she loves you like family. Jill asked are you worth her feeling that way for you.
Laura wanted to say “No!!” but didn’t because she knew she wasn’t supposed to say it. Every woman in the audience leaned forward, seemingly groping for words to give to the woman on stage.
Ellen could see Laura’s strengths and as her friend, ascribed great value to Laura. She saw her worth as a friend, beyond what Laura can see herself. As her friend, she had the freedom to like Laura and boast about Laura that in ways that Laura couldn’t seem to do herself. Some might call Laura modest, but I think that there was more than modesty going on. I believe that Laura, like thousands of women, and mothers, honestly failed to see her goodness. Or, perhaps she could see it, but couldn’t accept it because so much of her emotional energy was spent on comparing herself to other mothers that whenever she began to feel good about something she was doing.