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Humility and balance

February 25, 2021


2020 forced many of us to confront and acknowledge our limitations. Activities that were once taken for granted, such as meeting with family or attending sporting events, were extricated from our grasps. Some would even argue that our freedoms and liberties were trampled upon. Fortunately, in order to navigate our new normal, some sought refuge in the virtue of humility. Humility is often described from two distinct perspectives. From one lens, it is the inherent desire to serve others. The ability to lend our talents and resources in order to ameliorate the lives of others. Alternatively, some scholars also assert that humility requires us to recognize a higher being. Thus, we must give honor and thanks to an all-sapient entity.

The aforementioned contours of humility provide an excellent starting point in order to appreciate the virtue. However, the authors would like to offer a more panoptic understanding of humility. In order to so, the virtue of magnanimity must be introduced and defined. Magnanimity is the pursuit of greatness. It is the capacity to inspire and expect splendor from ourselves and those we are in association with. In short, it recognizes and prods us to reach our human potential. Therefore, we must envision true humility as the proper balance of service to others and recognition of a higher being on one end and magnanimity on the other. In the context of true humility, the authors compel the reader to consider what Aristotle referred to as the golden mean. The ancient Greek espoused that the golden mean is the proper combination between two extremes that results in human flourishing. As it pertains to authentic humility, it is the proper blend between meekness and arrogance.

Consider the Scale of Justice. The Egyptian Goddess of justice, Maat, stood for the proper balance between truth and fairness. This same analogy can be said for humility. If the scale is tilted too far to one extreme, the result is self-abasement. We tend to capitulate to poor leadership. We negotiate our humanity in exchange for comfort. We fail to respond to blatant atrocities. We ignore the cries of our neighbors. On the other end of the spectrum, if there is too much magnanimity, the result is supremacy. We entertain the axiom that some groups are inherently better than others. We recognize and acknowledge our vast capabilities and fail to embrace the value of other cultures, resulting in ethnocentricity.

When we humbly consider and embrace the value of others — such as what scholars including Tervalon and Murray-Garcia (1998) call “cultural humility,” the life-long process the National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines as self-reflection, and self-critique — we (1) learn about another’s culture and (2) examine our own beliefs and cultural identity. The healthcare industry moved away from cultural competency to practicing cultural humility as a training tool because physicians recognized the importance of adequately serving culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse populations in the United States. Perhaps, this is an approach to actively consider in academia, especially when preparing business students to flourish in the global market. Progressing from the culturally-accepted Euro-centric educational system to training business students about various markets’ opportunities, savoir-faire, and challenges may position business students better in their quest to maximizing profits on the global market by adequately targeting culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse populations. Perhaps the business schools of today cannot resemble that of yesterday because of the changing competitive landscape? While cultural humility is presented as food for thought today, it demands more than passive self-reflection. Cultural humility ultimately insists on action (Foronda, Baptiste, Reinholdt, and Ousman, 2016).