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Words have enormous power. They can make us erupt into laughter or bring tears to our eyes. They can influence, inspire, manipulate and shock. They can build, and they can destroy.
Some words have different effects on different people. One such word is humility. It is one of those words that are seldom in neutral gear. Some, like me, love the word and all it stands for. Some almost fear it and interpret it synonymously with lack of self-confidence or timidity. Humility is one of the virtues often mentioned in our everyday life.
But what is humility? And is it a virtue? The dictionary defines humility as modesty, lacking pretence, not believing that you are superior to others. An ancillary definition includes: "Having a lowly opinion of oneself, meekness".
We often confuse humility with timidity. Humility is not clothing ourselves in an attitude of self-abasement or self-denigration. Humility is all about maintaining our pride about who we are, about our achievements, about our worth – but without arrogance. It is the antithesis of excessive, arrogant pride which often leads to the derailment of some corporate heroes, as it does with the downfall of the tragic hero in Greek drama. It is about a quiet confidence without the need for a meretricious selling of our wares. It is about being content to let others discover the layers of our talents without having to boast about them. It is a lack of arrogance, not a lack of aggressiveness in the pursuit of achievement.