Greetings and welcome to my post. The purpose of this post is to engage in conversation about building trusting relationships. I believe that we are all created for relationships and what gives our lives meaning and purpose is to know that we are loved and accepted. When we have happy, purposeful, and meaningful relationships, then our lives become meaningful because we are loved and accepted by someone. Meaningful relationships really do bring hope to our lives.

In my first post, I asked you to consider becoming a loving person at the start of 2013. In my second post, I want you to consider practicing being humble as you journey through 2013. Each month I will ask you to consider practicing various themes so that by the end of the year, you will have seen that 2013 was not just a year in which you passively allowed time to happen to you but that you actively became a different person by practicing healthy character and finding success in all that you do.


So how would you define humility? What does being humble mean to you? Sometimes people define being humble as being a kind, giving person in which you allow others to take advantage of you. Or maybe you view being humble as being a servant in which you say yes to doing anything for someone and you never say no. Or maybe your idea about being humble is to be a quiet person who never creates conflict and constantly looks for ways to please people.

In part 1 of this series, I asked you to consider the description by Ezra Taft Benson:

Pride is concerned with who is right; Humility is concerned with what is right!

For this post, I would like for you to consider this description by my mentor Dr. Henry Cloud:

Humility is not having a need to be more than you are. To be humble is to just be a human being like everyone else, and avoid the need to be more than that.

Think about your life. Think about the various roles and demands placed on you or the roles you take on by accepting certain responsibilities. What if you took on a humble position with each role, responsibility, or position by trying hard not to be greater than you really are. In other words, sometimes the temptation is to take the attitude stance of, get out of my way, here I come, and bulldoze your way through life thinking you are a know it all attempting to be greater than you are. Maybe we all need to assume a position that we don’t know it all and like all humans be willing to learn from each new situation.

For example, let’s assume you are a spouse. You could take on the role of having a need to be more than you are. So if a problem comes up, you could come across as an expert or assume some powerful grandiose and confident position about how you know how to solve a relationship problem. For example, your spouse is always late and tends to not show up on time. This bothers you, so you assume a positional power of trying to fix him to be on time and teach him self-discipline to be on time according to your way. You take on a know-it-all attitude trying to prove being on time is right and the other person is wrong.

Now, I am sure the person who tends to run late is affected by your sermon of how they should be on time according to you. And, I am sure if you interviewed the tardy spouse, he probably would feel that he is not accepted, is tending to have a reaction that you are controlling, and eventually may not listen, value, or have any desire to want to do it your way.

You see, when we attempt to be greater than we are, than we act from a position of pride. Pride says I am right about being on time and my role is to fix you and your lateness by taking on a role of being more than I am. But what the late person really needs is to be accepted just as they are and the late person also wants you to be humble and not become more than you are. If your spouse is late, allow the consequences of life to be his teacher rather than you taking on that role of being his or her teacher.

To be humble means to be real and confessional. Another example might be let’s say a business deal of yours goes bad and you feel ashamed, disappointed and feel like a failure. You turn to someone who is an expert in your field of business telling them your story of a business deal gone sour. You think he or she is going to maybe correct you or use this opportunity to teach you a lesson. But what if this person’s response came from a humble position and stated: Well, we’ve all been there. It happens. Many of us who try to step out and do things in business and take a risk sometimes experience the business, other people, or life not going the way we thought. It is okay, relax, and learn from this experience.

Or let’s say you are a parent of a teenager. You thought you had done a pretty good job of training them or teaching them to do the right thing. But then they go and do the opposite. You are dumbfounded because you thought your way or ideas about how to raise a teenager certainly was going to be successful. But your teenager does it differently. Now, you could take on an angry, offended, or mad stance trying to prove you are right. But maybe you need to join a parent anonymous support group and confess what is happening to your teenager and how this is affecting you so that you can hear other parents say, “Well, we’ve all been there.”

When you hear feedback like that, it reminds you that loss and failure are part of the path. You are not as stupid as you think and this time with your teenager maybe a crisis can be solved. Remember to be humble is not about being greater than you are. As long as we all remember that any failure or loss, mistake or mishap, does not mean that we are incompetent, then we can learn from our mistakes and stay persistent trying to make it all work out.

To be humble means to accept our weaknesses and failures as part of life and as part of the process of being human. To accept the mantra, ‘We’ve all been there’ is to embrace being human, not filled with pride but confessing who we are versus trying to be greater than we are.

Think about that. What if you, as a parent, went to your teenage child and confessed that you have made some mistakes, that your way is not working and you were to ask your teenager for forgiveness and a desire to make changes so you can work on improving your relationship with your teenager? How do you think your teenager would hear this? What would that do to the relationship? Probably your teenager would see you as real, not trying to be more than you are, and maybe attempt to work with you versus against you, viewing you as someone who is humble and not filled with pride proving you are right and they are wrong. How do think that might affect the parent child relationship?

Thanks for reading and I welcome your feedback and reaction.

Phil Kiehl, LMFT, M.Div.
Licensed Therapist