Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Is Humility Making a Comeback?

Decades worth of pounding us with the gospel of self-esteem, and what do you get? Why, you get the most arrogant politician in America today. That would be Hillary Clinton.

Yes, indeed, the woman who failed completely to express any responsibility for what happened to the American Libya ambassador in Benghazi, tossed the question off with an exemplary instance of malignant narcissism: “What difference at this point does it make?” 

Seriously, not an ounce of regret. Not a smidgeon of responsibility. We were all horrified at this blame-shifting. Because if the Secretary of State was not responsible, then someone else surely was. Her failure to show humility shifted the blame to Ambassador Stevens, who had only sent 600 or so emails asking for increased security. Now if only he had sent a few dozen more she and her minions might have noticed.

If you wanted to see Hillary Clinton’s morally degeneracy in action, there it was. No wonder she lost the election. And no wonder she cannot accept the loss. She has such high self-esteem that she cannot allow reality to cast a disparaging judgment on her.

So, great leaders show humility. They credit others for success and take the blame entirely on themselves. Hillary was just the opposite. 

Leadership aside, the classical virtue of humility has been overshadowed in the psycho world by those who believe that enhanced self-esteem will solve all of our problems.

Apparently, thanks to cognitive psychology, it is making something of a comeback. Benedict Carey reports for The New York Times:

Humility is a relative newcomer to social and personality psychology, at least as a trait or behavior to be studied on its own. It arrived as part of the effort, beginning in the 1990s, to build a “positive” psychology: a more complete understanding of sustaining qualities such as pride, forgiveness, grit and contentment. More recently, humility has found a foothold in the most widely used measure of personality traits, the five- factor questionnaire. The wallflower is attracting some attention, and so far appears to be absorbing it well.

As it happens, humility makes you more open minded, more willing to consider different points of view, more able to admit to a mistake. You might say that these are good qualities for a leader to have. They are also positive character traits, the kinds that make you a better and more sociable human being.

Carey continues:

In one series of experiments, Elizabeth Krumrei Mancuso of Pepperdine University scored volunteers on a measure of what she called intellectual humility — an awareness of how incomplete and fallible their views on political and social issues were. This kind of humility was not related to I.Q. measures or political affiliation, she found; it was strongly linked to curiosity, reflection and open-mindedness.

Other research has found that people who score high for humility are less aggressive and less judgmental toward members of other religious groups than are less-humble people, even and especially after being challenged about their own religious views.

A humble disposition can be critical to sustaining a committed relationship. It may also nourish mental health more broadly, providing a psychological resource to shake off grudges, suffer fools patiently and forgive oneself.

Nicely stated. As for the dark side of humility, Carey seems to be pointing toward depression. Too much of a good thing can be bad. And too much humility will cause you to lose self-confidence and to become depressed:

To date, no one has elaborated a dark side to humility, although presumably too much of it could lead to social retreat, self-doubt and undue reticence. In the modern age of online posturing and self-promotion, Charlie Brown would have to raise his hand and squawk just to register his presence.


Sam L. said...

I'm humble. I have plenty to be humble about.

sestamibi said...

The best take on your subject I've ever heard was in an address by the dean of Temple Med School, at my nephew's graduation several years ago. He said that a successful doctor will combine just the right balance of confidence and humility, and that was the most difficult task a newly-minted doctor will face.

Gringo said...

I am not a churchgoer. My grandmother made many attempts to get me back to the church- in her case a Protestant fundamentalist church. While my grandmother was a VERY assertive person, she was not without humility. No one laughed at her better than she laughed at herself.She loved telling stories on herself, and as she was a great storyteller, we loved hearing them. In discussing her religious views, it was apparent that she considered herself a humble being before God. As she asked God to forgive her for voting for Herbert Hoover instead of that Papist Al Smith, she was aware that she could make mistakes in her political choices.

Many- not all- of our secular citizens have lost this humility. Lacking belief in a Supreme Being to keep them humble, they are apparently unable to consider the possibility that their political views might in some way be mistaken. (Ignoring, of course, how their political views will adjust to the popular narrative de jour. Who,10 or 15 years ago, was talking about the 57 varieties of gender?)Because they cannot consider the possibility that they could be mistaken, it is easy to view their political opponents as evil.

Joseph Bottom, in his book An Anxious Age: the Post-Protestant Ethic and Spirit of America, points out that many secular people today share with their church-going grandparents a desire to belong to the Elect. For the grandparents, that meant believing in God and adhering to the creed of their church. For the grandchildren, that means adhering to the politically correct narrative (Social Gospel..) of the day- which will keep changing.