The Character Movement

Joe and Tess

Declaring Humility in Vogue

At dinner the other night, we were sitting around our table and my wife, Jane, and I sensed that our 4th-grade daughter’s spirit was a bit melancholy. We thought something must have happened to Tess at school. As the daughter of an Irish-Italian father and a French-Bohemian mother, being quiet is a bit unusual in our family and raised a bit of an alarm. As any parent would do, we launched into a typical parent-child “self-esteem” soliloquy.

“Tess, you are such a beautiful young girl. You are unique. Special. There is no one like you, nor has there ever been anyone like you.”

We watched her sit up a bit in her chair and saw her spirit return. She started to beam her bright smile as she soaked up our message about how special she is.

As parents, we naturally try to build the self-esteem of our children. Like anything in life, though, sometimes we can go too far. Instead of helping create a child filled with self-worth, we can unintentionally create a person cursed with arrogance.

Youth Frontiers focuses on building the character of young people by promoting timeless and important values. Today, I see a greater and greater need to teach young people the value of humility. It seems out of vogue in our nation today to see oneself as neither better nor worse than the other – but what a great life lesson!

Ben Franklin alluded to the idea that we need to enter into all dialogues with a spirit of humility if true civil discourse is to occur. We need to understand that not every “truth” one believes is necessarily true, or that another’s “falsehood” is necessarily false. Otherwise, our conversations become nothing more than monologues – shrill additions to our nation’s partisan debates. We must teach our children that humility opens us to learning and wisdom. Humility opens us to true friendship. Humility opens us to a more peaceful way of living.

There is room to build our children up without placing them on a pedestal so high that they look down on the rest of the world. This week, teach your children that they matter, and even more so that others matter.

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