“You know, we have a saying on earth. We say: “I’m only human.” We say it because we’re vulnerable, we say it because we know we’re afraid, but it doesn’t mean we’re weak,” said by Hal Jordan in the movie Green Lantern (2011).
With those three simple, humble words we acknowledge our insignificance as well as our capability. We often say it because we’ve given all, and we’re still asked to do more. Those words acknowledge our humility and our power.
When I was in college, I had this idea that I wanted to be such an expert in my field that I could walk into a conference room at work wearing a tye-dyed sundress and sandals, provide my expert opinion, and it would be accepted. Basically, no matter what I wore, it was my expert opinion that would resolve the issue. As I started my career, I often looked up to these character types.
What has changed? As I’ve grown, I have discovered that they are often wrong. Not just that I disagree with their approach, but some have been dead wrong. Some even bluff.
(I have also discovered that I like wearing nice clothes – cute colorful pumps on my feet and a beautiful blouse can really turn my attitude around.)
Something else has changed. I don’t know if it is the impact of motherhood or a point at which my professional values finally started to align with my personal values. At some point, I finally decided that leadership and responsibility were pointless if I didn’t have the courage to be myself. My goal is not to be “the one person” who knows something.
I believe that teaching is part of the job. It’s important to me to be able to walk out of the room when I’m bored and know that 5 people who remain in the room will still ask the important questions as if I was there. I want to leave a legacy at the office, just as much as I desire to leave a legacy with my children. In order to leave a legacy though, I have to be humble enough to let go and let my students surpass me.
It takes humility to learn, and it takes humility to teach. It requires a great deal of humility to trust those you’ve taught and to let them go out on their own. As you let your students go, it enables you and your students to learn other things.
There are often situations where I think I know everything – enough to be full of righteous indignation. But because I have put my foot in my mouth often enough, I try to remember one thing, “I might be wrong. I might not have the whole story.” This has two impacts 1) I avoid tasting my toes 2) It helps me control my anger. It helps me avoid emotionally hurting those I care about, even if I am right. Being humble enough to control my emotions (to consider that I might be wrong), gives me power over myself. My problem-solving effort becomes a sharpened sword getting to the heart of the problem, not an atomic blast destroying everything in my wake.
Ether 12:27 “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
How can you expect to learn more, become greater, be better, if you don’t first acknowledge what you lack?
I was at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT preparing to head out into the mission field. I was good at some things that would help me in the mission field, but I had a hard time remembering people’s names. Knowing someone’s name shows you care.
My brain used to re-assign names to people based on my life. Your name could be “Amy”, but if you looked like an “Elizabeth” to me I would never be able to remember “Amy”. Not a cute trick if you are a missionary. I was really worried.
Ether 12:27 was the first scripture I memorized in the MTC. I prayed that as I moved into each new congregation/ward (possibly every 6 months) that I would be able to remember the names of the new 400+ people I met. Daunting to say the least. For the 18 months that I served as a missionary, it was easy to remember everyone’s name. Knowing people and their stories became one of my strengths for a short period. But I received that gift because I was humble enough to ask and because it facilitated the work of the Lord.
Your weakness may be the exact strength that the Lord needs you to develop. There is power in humility.
Molly A. Kerr
Molly is on a life long quest to figure herself out. Born to be and educated as an aerospace engineer she is also blessed to be a wife and a mom of two in the present, previously served as a full-time missionary, is consistently called to teach the youth in her ward, is eagerly though slowly doing home improvement as money and time allow, all while gradually learning how to be herself and find peace and balance somewhere in between. Despite her attempts to make “the right” decisions in her life, she has learned to deal with some unexpected challenges over the last two decades. Total tornadoes, really. What she has discovered is that her career has taught her a lot about the Gospel and being a better mother, and the Gospel, when applied to challenges at the office, has made her a better professional. She has also learned that it is okay to be herself, and God still loves (and forgives) her for it.