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Humility as a phenomenon and epiphenomenon

February 25, 2021


As researchers of business application and Lasallian educators, we rely on an epistemology of critical and inquisitive scientific process. Humility, as a practical and experiential virtue, can be understood as being true to one’s self and being a person of character, modest in estimating our importance, and a dedication to a greater common good. Much has been written about the phenomenological experience of humility and how it is experienced and perceived through the external benchmarks of observation. We would like to offer another view, in agreement with Brother Antón Marquiegui1, that recognizes humility as epiphenomenon — a secondary phenomenon which occurs simultaneously but is understood through our own internal eyes of faith.

Third-year DBA student P.K. Yang offers us the following reflection on humility, and her own praxis on the evolution of humility in her life:

My view of humility comes from a cultural, scholarly, professional, and personal lens. As I balance between these lenses, I am challenged and pulled in many directions at the same time. Obtaining a balance between these four forces and being able to know and understand humility is key for me to be effective in work and life. From a cultural perspective, living the role of a Hmong woman with the responsibilities associated of family, kids, and future generations comes with the realization that being humble plays an important role in the Hmong society. For example, sometimes I need to think carefully on what I say or do as the Hmong community can view me positively or negatively from my actions. Therefore, I choose to listen and voice my opinions after careful consideration. Why? It is the willingness to understand the perspectives of others that is essential to my role within the community. As a scholar, my willingness to listen and learn from the many researchers before me along with future scholars plays an important role, because I personally want to continue to learn and grow.

The DBA program and my cohort has enabled me grow personally because I’ve met many individuals who gave testimony to their life-stories and perspectives. I learned to slow down and be more willing and open-minded to opposing points of view. Professionally, thinking about the leadership and diverse perspectives in my organization, the acceptance and honoring of multiple perspectives is important in how we make decisions. Personally, I’ve gained this awareness from my awesome parents. My parents have always taught me to think carefully and be willing to view society and the world in multiple perspectives. Yet we must be willing to understand and balance who we are and what we believe in. Regardless of the chaos we may encounter, we must strive to pursue humility not as an “active goal” but rather as a balance of understanding.

For faculty, humility can be witnessed in the practice of the craft of teaching. From some outside perspectives, the role of educator may pale in comparison to the prestige of other disciplines. It may not bring you excessive material wealth, high social rank, or fame. However, as Brother Marquiegui suggests, in the internal valuation of a faculty member, the art of teaching and scholarship, as well as contributing to the common good, is a dignified and noble pursuit.

1. Marquiegui, A. (2018). Contribution of John Baptist De La Salle (1651-1719): To the esteem for the teaching profession. MEL Bulletin N.52, Rome, Italy: Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.