How do we feel confident with who we are without being prideful? It often feels like a hard balance to strike! The trick? Embracing humility—knowing, accepting and being who we are while demonstrating modesty about our accomplishments and gifts, admitting mistakes and valuing others for who they are and for their input. When we practice humility, we make space for ourselves and others to be fully human, warts and all. The humble path is steep at the onset, but it leads to some beautiful views and open meadows—it’s so worth it!
For kids, this definition may be a lot to comprehend. A simple way to understand (and commit to memory!) humility is through our catch phrase: Admit mistakes and cheer each other on! We often refer to this as a growth mindset—looking for opportunities to grow and helping others to do the same. There is a family I know that sits down to dinner each evening and instead of the usual “How was your day?” conversation starter, the dad asks everyone what mistakes they made that day. It has fostered a space for every member to admit their mistakes, knowing that there is a wonderful opportunity on the other side: to learn from them! Then there is space for the whole family to cheer each other on toward learning and growing. Last month we focused on gratitude and taking up a daily practice of being thankful, what if this month we focus on a daily practice of admitting our mistakes? What do you think would come of it?
Possibly, a greater acceptance for all of who we are, a bit more freedom to be you, and an easing up on the pressure we put on ourselves. We don’t have to be perfect! Hooray! What a relief! And in developing this deeper realization, we can look around and see that we all make mistakes—we can turn to others and embrace them for you they are, too. Like Henri Frederic Amiel said, “There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.”
So how do we start fostering this character trait within ourselves and our children? Below you will find some discussion questions and activities to promote humility within your home:
- What do you think of when you think of humility? How does your definition compare to our definition of humility?
- What part of our definition of humility do you find the easiest to do? What is the hardest?
- Why is it often hard to admit our mistakes?
- Pick a literature character to discuss pride and humility (for a few suggestions, refer to our Humility Book List). As you read with your students, look for opportunities to promote these discussions.
- As you study significant figures in history and touch on the complexities and sometimes contradictions of their lives, ask your students what role they think pride and humility played in the decisions made by these historical figures.
- Read and discuss the following quote by Benjamin Franklin, “In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.” Do you ever find yourself being proud of your humility?
- If pride is the opposite of humility, is it wrong to be proud of oneself? Can you be proud and modest at the same time?
- Why is humility essential to relationships?
- What’s the difference between being humble and being humbled (other than the one letter)?
- Have your students think of a group or team they have been part of—ask, Can a team be truly successful without humility?
- How can you be more intentional about cheering others on this month?
Another way to keep this character trait of the month top of mind is to print and hang our Humility poster! Click here to download.
Before I sign off, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge what a joyful, but often fraut time the holidays can be—and all in our own way. YOU CAN DO IT—you won’t get every present just right, you won’t make every friend/family member happy, and you will eat a good amount of sugar (so will your kids). But you’ve got this, you are allowed to laugh at yourself and enjoy a season of giving without expecting anything in return. May your season be full and bright, wherever you are and however you celebrate.
Want more resources? Read Teaching Character Through Literature: Humility.