Pride v. Humility

Certain words or phrases catch my attention depending on their usage. I’m thinking today about how often one hears “I’m humbled to win this award…” It could be an athlete, musician, actor, or anyone whose work is recognized. What strikes me is what I perceive as a false sense of humility. Winning recognition should make someone proud of his/her accomplishments. Sure, you can give credit where it is due, but be proud that your hard work was recognized. I thought of this not too long ago when I saw an announcement in a LinkedIn feed by Eddie Farah. Eddie, along with his brother, Chuck, have built a large, successful, personal injury law practice in Jacksonville representing plaintiffs. Eddie posted that he was proud his firm was able to continue a tradition of awarding $5,000 scholarships to 20 people several years running. That is something of which someone should be proud! I know, it is not an award of recognition to Eddie or his firm, the kind of thing where people say “I’m humbled…” But, the truth is, if it were, it would be more apropos, in my opinion, to say one is proud of the accomplishment. Being proud does not mean one is arrogant, needing to apologize by being “humbled.” Measured pride, justified pride, nothing to hide.

When I think of the word, “proud,” I smile and think of Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, known professionally as the character she played onstage, Minnie Pearl.  Minnie Pearl usually opened her stage appearances with a signature phrase: “How-dee! I’m so proud to be here!”.  Never did I hear her say, “Hello!  I’m so humbled to be here.”  It just wouldn’t have the same meaning, would it? I believe people should say what they mean and mean what they say.  There are times to be humbled and there are times to be proud.  Eddie Farah certainly knows the difference and he is to be admired for not displaying a false sense of humility when pride in being able to help people with scholarships is appropriate.  Sometimes, people’s choice of language becomes overused, to the point of becoming trite and meaningless.  One of my proudest moments was July 9, 1984, when I passed my dissertation defense and was bestowed the title I worked hard to earn: Doctor.  I was, and continue to be, proud of my accomplishment!  It was really, really difficult!  (And, if you don’t believe me, I suggest you go to school for what seems like forever to earn your Ph. D.!)  I am not conceited, arrogant, or boastful about earning my Ph. D., however, one thing I am definitely not is humbled because of it.  I reserve using the word “humble” as it is intended.  Humble bragging is, in my opinion, uncool and to be avoided at all times.

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