Sid Roberts: Humility still a virtue; it’s just harder to see

Too many of our leaders and athletes believe they have to disgrace others to show their strength.

Sid Roberts

Sid Roberts

By Sid Roberts / Herald Forum

It wasn’t too long ago that humility was considered by most Americans to be a virtue. Today however, somehow, hubris seems to have become much more fashionable in our country than humility.

Astonishingly, it is now good sport to pridefully, and usually publicly, trash a person who holds a position different from yours. Some national leaders — apparently with borderline personality disorders — have made this bad-mannered aggression standard operating procedure.

However, this type of prideful behavior is wrong, very wrong.

Humility, on the other hand, has historically been valued in life. It was even valued in hard-fought sporting contests. We baby boomers remember hearing our parents say, “it isn’t whether you win or lose but how you play the game that counts.” Nowadays, that advice is mostly considered tomfoolery. In sports, it’s not only victory that is desired; the real goal is to win big, really big. In fact, some players and coaches think it is acceptable to run up the score in order to thrash the opponent. This act of bad sportsmanship is apparently presented to demonstrate who is the greatest.

Today, in Major League Baseball games, hitting a home run is not just a run scored. Over the last decade or so, is has become an opportunity to glare at and ultimately stare down the pitcher, to flip the bat and then strut like a rooster around the bases. In basketball, a thundering dunk, in the face of your opponent, now puts an exclamation point on the score. Take that! And on it goes.

Gone are the days, when after the ballgame, winners and losers would humbly shake the hand of their opponent and say, “good game” and mean it. Instead, now, winners often pay little attention to their opponent and are too busy acting out their hubris and doing TV interviews about their greatness. Perennial winners now want to be known as the GOAT, a.k.a., the greatest of all time.

The internet has exacerbated this problem. Looking good in life is now all that seems to matter, and social media has intensified this phenomenon. An online selfie attempts to show the world how happy, how pretty, how perfect, or how rich you are. To appear online as a normal person, imperfect or with problems to solve, only portrays you as a weak person and likely a loser. Or so it is assumed by some.

Studies have indeed shown this need to look perfect to the digital world has contributed to depression, eating disorders and even suicide. This is especially true for young girls.

This ugly side of pride is also at play in politics. Rather than let your own position speak for itself, it is now fashionable to use Twitter or other social media to try to undermine your opponent. Throwing good people under the bus, even decorated war veterans, is somehow a good thing. For these people being a bully somehow shows strength and prevents the truth of their own weakness from being exposed. Being seen as weak is apparently disastrous to these shallow wells, and for them the worst thing possible is being seen as a loser.

But this hubris is short-sided and humility is actually a great strength. How you play the game really does matter. Great leaders, those with lasting impact, are often the ones who understand their limitations and are willing to be humble and transparent. Great leaders are servant leaders and not despotic dictators. The best parents are the ones who show their children their clay feet. The best bosses are those who work with those under their charge instead of over them.

History will favor those who understand the difference between pride and humility. How we order our life in this area is important. The scary thing is that it is our choice.

Sid Roberts lives in Stanwood and is a member of the Stanwood City Council. He and his wife have four grown children and two grandchildren.

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