Exploring Human Potential

7 & 7: Humble vs. Boastful


To be heralded at a young age is a special burden. It leaves within the honored and those who surround her a constant need to justify the award, a subtle process that can reorder an individual’s priorities away from growth and exploration and toward familiar and safe terrain. Awards and recognitions always contain within the packaging inducements to see oneself as separate, distinct, superior, even when these feelings are resisted. That is why wise people are often careful to do their good under cover, in quiet ways, not out of false humility but because it ensures the full pleasure of the giving. Public displays will always be suspect. For it can be difficult to define in each and every act the complex tangle of motivations. Is this for me or thee? Am I bragging? And if so, doesn’t that take the glow out of the glowworm? Self-praise provides no credible recommendation. It is not the same as self-confidence which is essential to success. The greatness is in the smallness – that is the mystery. With the modesty comes the admiration, accepting that if the applause never comes, still the good that was done will be affirmation enough.


After I am dead, I would rather have men ask why Cato has no monument than why he had one.
Cato the elder The greatest monarch on the proudest throne is obliged to sit upon his own arse.
Benjamin Franklin

The greatest pleasure I know is to do a good action by stealth, and to have it found out by accident
Charles Lamb

Where there are no tigers, a wildcat is very self-important.
Korean proverb

We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow-worm.
Winston Churchill

Self-praise is no recommendation.
Old saying

Do not make yourself so big. You are not so small.
Jewish proverb

A modest man is usually admired – if people ever hear of him.
Edgar Watson Howe


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