An Exercise in Humility
Glancing at a current issue of Vanity Fair, not one but several celebrity questionnaires assault my eyes. And it’s not so much the responses they have given (though I discover, if words reflect accurately, that Matt Damon seems a decent sort of human being) – but it’s more the questions themselves that prompt my own inner Interviewer to grasp the stub of a pencil lurking in her French rolled coif and, licking its tip, gaze penetratingly and directly at me, gauging my response as she queries, What do you consider your worst trait? Under that ironclad stare, I know in a millisecond that wiggling out from under an honest answer is futile. Instead without hesitation and yet humble in the assurance that I do not enjoy admitting it, I let spill judging others.
Being aware of this quality or fault, depending on how one perceives it (discernment seems more palatable somehow than judgment) has ultra-sensitized me to the importance of accepting others on their own ground. Knowing this and practicing it as best I am able, I still admit that the first thoughts proverbially popping into mind when confronted with new faces are the instant laser-like assessments: What a space shot! Doesn’t she know how transparent she is? He ought to get over himself! These are three separate examples of what might leap to mind. Of course I don’t articulate these thoughts and to my credit I do sit with them – striving to understand why, knowledge and faith be damned, this remains such automatic behavior. I don’t like to harbor such conclusions, yet at this stage in life I am comforted in finally accepting my warts and all. If I can’t be kind to myself, it is most unlikely I will ever fully cultivate this trait toward another.
One of the greatest gifts in garnering wisdom is not in knowing how perfect I am, but that I am able to acknowledge and accept my imperfections, escorting them into the light of awareness. When I dare to delve into these less savory aspects, I come up with mirror images for the examples offered, above: In tribute to the spacey among us, I am able to admit to an outright sense of envy that I can’t be looser and less hyper-responsible. As pertains to transparent people, I am far too vulnerable and fearful that I will be targeted because of my own lack of guile. And as for labeling egomaniacs? Deep down inside I possess some pretty reliable resources. In fact I have been told by friends that, before they knew me, I appeared somewhat aloof due to a perceived aura of competence and confidence. So much for perceptions, as my judgments clearly arise from fear of my own inadequacies.
The real kicker to this whole diatribe is that I have often been hailed as one of the least judgmental of persons by others. And, since paradox seems to be a human trait, I would agree – demonstrating what I have suspected for some time: just as no one can truly know the angst I suffer at the hands of my own inner demons, I can never fully know another. After all, I’m still working on knowing myself! And no matter how honest I try to be, I only share aspects of that self that are appropriate in any given moment and situation. Factor in the other seven billion inhabitants of the planet, and it’s easy to surmise that labeling people prevents me from allowing others to reveal the treasure trove of their complexity.