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The intrigue of humility

One Monday my book club discussed ‘The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town’ by John Grisham. It’s Grisham's first work of nonfiction. It focuses on the tragedy of Ron Williamson, a baseball hero from a small town in Oklahoma. Williamson became a dissolute, mentally unstable Major League washout put on death row for a hometown rape and murder he did not commit.

In typical understated fashion, Allen, one of the book club members, said, “Many mistakes can be made when you have arrogance and incompetence.” He was talking about the law enforcement officers, the attorneys and the judges involved in the original trials in Ada, Oklahoma.

The minute Allen said that, I thought what a terrific observation of far more than this book. Allen is a distinguished professor of animal science but he won’t tell you that. If I had to describe him in three words, I would say smart, humble and kind.

We probably all know arrogance and incompetence too well so let’s focus on humility, a component of civility.

What is humility?
Modest and unassuming in attitude and behavior about one's status or accomplishments
A quality expressed by a person who doesn't feel it necessary to talk about his accomplishments or experiences. A humble person isn't concerned about himself but shows respect and deference towards others.

I think the humble often are the first to believe there is always more to contemplate and learn. They tend to be really interesting people because they are curious and because you don’t know everything about them. And they’re the ones I want to be around at work and everywhere, actually.

How many humble people do you know? Would anyone describe you as humble?


I know Allen and I agree that he is a great example of what it means to be humble. Some of us are committed to be "interesting" and so we seek to stand out and invite others to notice that we are unique and special. I confess that I am sometimes guilty of that! Humble people are committed to be "interested" in others. Often what draws us to them is that when we are with them they enable us to feel valued and important.

“Many mistakes can be made when you have arrogance and incompetence.”

I think many people (Extension included) need to read this statement and reflect back on, not others, but the one that stares back at them in the mirror. There have been many studies on how the "ignorant masses" simply do not know they are ignorant. I would say the same can go for arrogance and incompetence. Others can see it; sometimes glaringly, but rarely point it out to that individual. And it’s a shame as the arrogance and incompetence only continues.