Humility…. or humiliating?

I like to blog about topics that I need to work on the most… things that are pertinent to my life because they actually happened to me.  I want to look back at mistakes I’ve made and meditate on how to prevent myself from repeating those mistakes, and this blog is the direct result of something that’s happened to me.  It was something that humiliated me, and thus, led to this topic of discussion.

Let’s do some review. Google defines humiliate in this way:

make (someone) feel ashamed and foolish by injuring their dignity and self-respect, esp. publicly.
You’ll notice that humiliate is not the same thing as humble, but they are similar terms.  Back to Google.
  1. having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.

So maybe, as in my case, someone may become more humble after they have been humiliated.  I guess that brings me to my next point, so I’ll need to explain what happened.  My husband and I were at my parents’ house one evening. I can’t even remember why we were there now, but we were all in the living room talking.  My mother, my sister, and I are all nurses, and we tend to swap nursing stories with each other on occasion.  Now, we all were working in different areas at the time: my mom is an OR (operating room) nurse, my sister was an ER (emergency room) nurse, and I was working in the ICU ( intensive care unit).  I love sharing stories with them, and I love to hear some of their experiences, as well.  My dad, brother, and husband, however, generally get this exasperated “here we go again” look once those conversations begin.  Until after that night, I had never really noticed those looks. I knew they did not necessarily love to hear all the guts and gore that sometimes accompanied our stories, but hey, most people don’t.  But I always enjoyed sharing these stories with my mom and sister, because only a nurse can truly appreciate another nurse’s story.  Sure, others can find them interesting, or appalling,  or sad, or whatever else you can think of, but only another nurse can appreciate the range of emotions that are involved in those experiences, because they’ve been there at some point, too.  But anyway, we wrapped up the story swapping, packed up our son, and got into the car to head home.  Then my husband said something I’ve never forgotten.  I can’t remember the exact words he said, but the general idea was this, “Whew, glad that’s over.”  I’m sure I responded with, “What?”, because I had no idea what he was talking about.  He continued with, “The one-upping.  When y’all get together and start telling nursing stories, I feel like I need to start keeping score! You were telling stories so fast you didn’t even let each other finish before another of you started telling the next story.”
Now, my husband was in no way trying to be hurtful when he said this.  He didn’t realize that my face was ten shades of red and that tears welled up in my eyes from embarrassment, because (thank goodness) it was dark outside, and he couldn’t see my face.  And the fact of the matter is, in those circumstances, we were truly not trying to “one-up” each other by telling those stories- but that’s how he perceived it.  For those of you who are not familiar with “one-uppers”, let me define it for you.  We all know that person: the one who knows everything about everything.  If you’ve climbed a mountain, so have they.  But they climbed one that was taller than the one you climbed.  If you are knowledgeable about a certain topic, they know more about it than you.  If you’ve traveled to a foreign country, they went there first, and they can give you a detailed itinerary about where to go and what to do the next time you go.  Nobody likes a one-upper, and I certainly didn’t want to be perceived as one.
Since that day, I have been very conscious about the things I say, and how they can be perceived by other people.  I felt humiliated that day, and now I want to work on my humility.  I’m not saying I can never share anything personal or anything that I do at work with my family or friends anymore.  My husband was not saying that he was disinterested with the things I do in my place of work.  But that experience made me start thinking about humility, because being a one-upper is the exact opposite of being humble.  And I want to be humble.
Isaiah 2:11 says:
“The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.”
Now, I know that when Isaiah wrote that verse, he was referring to Christ’s return to this earth on judgment day.  He was referring to the disobedient ones who refuse to obey His will (the haughty and lofty-looking men).  “That day” did not actually refer to the day that I realized I was acting like a dirty one-upper, but it certainly can be applied there. It was, in fact, “that day” that I decided to stop bringing attention to myself and start trying to glorify God with my speech and actions. I don’t want to be perceived as haughty or lofty-looking at all.  That experience has made me think twice (sometimes three times) before speaking.  I love sharing my experiences, but from now on I will do so in moderation.
My husband made another point that hit home, too.  He said we didn’t let each other finish our stories before we’d start another one.  I thought about that for a while, and I soon came to the realization that cutting each other off was fundamentally rude.  It says “I don’t care how your story ends, my story is more important so I’m going to go ahead and start telling it.” I started wondering how often I do that to other people in my life.  My mother and sister are both very important to me, but they forgive easily and may not have even noticed I was doing it to them.  But it really embarrassed me to think I may do it to others and not even notice it.  After all, until he brought it to my attention, I had never noticed I was doing it to them!
1 Peter 5:5 says:
” Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.  Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”
After pondering on this subject for some time, I have compiled a small list of advice on humble speech and actions.  Remember, this is only from lessons derived from my short 26 years of life, but it’s what I’ve got so far.
  1. Sometimes saying nothing at all is more influential than any advice you could offer.
  2. Once you say something, you cannot take it back.
  3. Your tone of voice is just as important as the actual words you say.
  4. You always have the choice to give a compliment or withhold it.  Choose wisely.
  5. You always have the choice to criticize someone or not.  Choose wisely.
  6. Being humble does not mean you must act like a martyr.
  7. Complaining about how busy you are, how hard your life is, or about how much you are juggling right now does not make most people feel sorry for you.  It makes you sound like you are complaining.
  8. Humility is not achieved by telling others about all your accomplishments or how much experience you have in a certain area.
  9. You do not need to tell others about your experience or accomplishments.  Actions really do speak louder than words.
  10. When someone is sharing their troubles with you, they are not necessarily asking for your advice.  They may just need your presence.

I have found, since that day, that the way we speak and the things we say play a HUGE part in how others perceive us in reference to humility.  What does the Bible tell us the virtuous woman would do?

Prov. 31:26 says:

“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Let the journey to humility begin….


1 Comment

  1. I didn’t realize you had started a blog. Nice post. No. 10 on your list is one of my favorites – just being present is so important sometimes. And the cutting off conversations must run in the family. My family didn’t realize how much it annoyed me until I just stopped talking and one day Mom finally noticed and asked me to finish and I declined since the conversation had already moved on. Now, when I get cut off and I get quiet they notice and usually let me finish. My friends at work are just now starting to notice that I’ve stopped talking. I find it easier to stay out of the conversation than to try to join and get cut off. Kudos to you for working on this – being aware is a huge step.


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