The practice of becoming humble is one that can really be developed by making use of a simple yet very interesting and rewarding habit to add into your family’s daily life.
First, let’s take a moment to discuss the roots of being humble. Because the roots of being humble are all about one thing—other people.
To cultivate a humble spirit means learning to take our eyes off ourselves and understand that there are so many other people involved in whatever it is that might tempt us to be proud.
If you can learn to consistently keep the idea of gratefulness at the forefront of a child’s thinking, you will end up with a very humble child.
Here’s how you do that: whenever you are tempted to jump on a high horse about something—maybe someone has just paid you a compliment or thanked you for something, whatever it is—immediately start listing out all the people other than yourself who were involved in making that thing happen.
Let me share a little example for you from my own life.
One time Austin, my older son, was with me when I was doing a television interview about a new book that had just come out.
At some point during the interview, another book of mine, The Traveler’s Gift, came up. The question had something to do with the process of writing and releasing the book, and as I took them through the process, I kept using phrases like “when we released the book,” and “when our book came out” and so on and so forth.
So, after the interview, Austin said to me, “Dad, can I ask you something?” And I said sure.
He said, “You wrote the books, right?” And I said I did.
And he said, “Well you always say that when ‘we’ release that book and that we hope that ‘our’ book does this or that. What do you mean by that saying ‘we’ and ‘our’ and ‘us’?”
I answered with this: “Buddy, here’s what I have figured out. There’s no benefit in taking the credit. Number one, my name is on the book, so what more credit do I need than that?
“The truth is that there were a lot of people involved in that book, and most of those people don’t get much recognition in their lives…and so you know how we always want to make other people feel better and we want to lift people up? This is an easy way to do it.”
I explained to him that, yes, I wrote the words, but I also told him that if Adam and him hadn’t been intentionally quiet around the house during those times, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. So those were times when they were a part of writing the book.
“P.C.,” I added, “who helps us around the house, and creates a neat and orderly atmosphere, she helped write the book too.
“And if it weren’t for SB and Matt and all the people at the office, this book would not have been released.
“Then there’s the folks at the publishing company, like Matt and Stephanie and Emily and Tom and Damon…
“So,” I added, “I really do believe it’s ‘we,’ it’s our book.”
Austin nodded. “Got it,” he said.
You can take that story and understand that anything about which we may be tempted to be proud of, can be attributed to the help of other people.
I mean, if someone tells you that you have beautiful hair, you probably didn’t cut it. You didn’t make the hairspray. You didn’t make the mousse. You see what I’m saying?
But this is something that is very easy to teach your kids as they grow older. And it even gets kind of fun when you start realizing all the people influencing the outcomes of your life. It plays right back into cultivating a grateful heart as well.
What I call this system is accepting the compliment, but deflecting the ownership that leads to pride.
When you start doing this in your own life, your kids will notice and begin to understand, and that’s when you can begin teaching them to apply it in their lives as well.
It becomes nothing more than a habit of immediately listing every person involved with any great outcome about which you receive compliments.
Learning to do this effectively will lead to three key benefits for you and your children:
- It will keep you humble.
- It will remind you to be grateful for the influence of other people in your life.
- And it will make those other people feel great.
So remember: accept the compliment, but deflect the ownership that leads to pride.