Choir Notes

The Virtue of Humility
From Music and the Spoken Word
Delivered By: Lloyd D. Newell • Program 4312 

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin tells of his strong desire to develop a worthy character. To do this, he made a list of the 12 virtues he most wanted to achieve and then came up with a systematic plan to practice each one. After learning of the plan, a friend suggested that he add one more virtue to his list, one that many felt he needed. He agreed and added—humility.1 Later on in life, Benjamin Franklin wrote that it was the virtue of humility that allowed him to have such great influence for good. 

As St. Augustine said: "Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”2 

Humility is not the exclusive possession of any particular class or type of people. Anyone can be humble. We can start by carefully listening to what others have to say. A humble person knows that we all have a lot to learn and that we can learn something meaningful from almost anyone. A person with humility sets aside personal interests in favor of careful attention to the needs and wants of others. A humble person doesn’t care who gets the credit, as long as the right thing is done. 

As Ben Franklin tried to be humble, he found that he was less inclined to judge others before hearing them out. He was less likely to argue that his opinion was the only one that could be right. He was more gentle in his efforts to persuade others and more open to new ideas. 

It’s hard to know if you’re humble—it’s a lifelong quest, but if you truly look upon others as equals, if you try to think of those around you before yourself, and if the feelings of other people really matter to you, then you are likely well on your way to developing the virtue of humility. 

1 See The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1895), 162–64. 
2 In Everett L. Worthington Jr., Humility: The Quiet Virtue (2007), 48.

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