Thursday, March 10, 2016

Humble in Victory, Humble in Defeat

With but one minute of class remaining, a few of my seniors asked me "Ms Stricherz, are you going to watch the fight?" The year before, I was asked that same question about Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather. This year, they were referring to a different kind of fight and a different kind of fighter: UFC/Mixed Martial Arts. Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz. I love that they asked me this question. 

When I pay better attention, I gain a sense of what my students are excited about...and McGregor is one thing, one person on that list. Thanks to the cover story of Sports Illustrated, I was armed with a little information about the number one UFC fighter in the world. I admitted that I probably wouldn't watch the fight, but I wanted a report from them.

I wasn't sure how the hype would compare to the boxing match that took place last May. I checked in on Saturday afternoon and realized it was underway, but not for long. As written in by Josh Gross in The Guardian
The colorful career of Conor McGregor hit a speed bump when Nate Diaz clung to his back and interrupted the flow of blood to the Irishman’s well coifed head, forcing a tapout at 4:12 of the second round in the main event of UFC 196.
And yet, it wasn't the fight that stayed with me. No, it was McGregor's words. Known for his trash talking, McGregor said, "I'm humble in victory and  in defeat."
Humility—the quality of being humble—is a virtue I revere. But there's a big problem with humility: how you gain it. We gain humility when we are humbled...and more often than not it's just not fun. Humble pie is anything but tasty. When we lose, mess up, are ridiculed or embarrassed, when we confront our limitations, we get yet another glimpse into our humanity. And, we grow in humility.

Since I think about humility on a regular basis, I have three ways that you too can grow in it. Though difficult, I believe these steps toward humility can lead you to something bigger. I'd love examples of your own.

1. Play golf. 
Nothing, I repeat nothing humbles a person like this wicked game. One day the nonmoving target that is 1.8" in diameter couldn't travel further off the tee. It's as if the entire course is a fairway, and the only other clubs you need are wedges and a putter (I wish). Moments later, you swing and miss. While it's not uncommon for a beginner to do this,  I've done it several times since those early, painful days.

There are numerous lessons to learn through golf but the greatest is one I've discovered is from other golfers. A good golfer will never tell you how good he or she is. Although the handicap has been established to tell you just that, a truly skilled and talented golfer knows how difficult and demanding the game is. They are humble because the game has made them that way. This is a quality that separates a golfer from a person who plays golf....and it's no different from...
2. Learn another language.
I have spent an egregious amount of time and money studying Spanish. I have likened it to a relationship—albeit a bad one. We spend a lot of time together, grow very close, it invades my thought and consumes my free time...and then it gets too hard. I have tried to break up with this language for years and I keep coming back to it. Unless, I fully commit to Spanish (i.e. live for at least a year in a Spanish speaking country), our relationship will only go so far.

I say this in the context of humility because I have asked people how they became proficient. I seek advice from those who have achieved some level of mastery. Every single one of these people (non-native speakers) will never tell you that they are fluent in the language. Why? they know what they do not know. They are keenly aware of their limitations. There's a constant, nagging sense that they are "slipping" or not what they used to be.

I think this is a true test, a barometer for a person who is proficient. They maintain a healthy humility about their experience.

3. Have students lead or write their own prayers.
My class begins with prayer, which is led by students. Before we begin, the prayer leader offers his or her own petition and asks their classmates: "For who or what else shall we pray."  Some classes share many intentions and others are silent. 

This year, my classes haven't felt as comfortable sharing their petitions, so I asked them to write one on a sheet of paper. I informed them that we would be offering these out loud. We put them in a glass jar and everyday, the prayer leader reads two of them. I didn't know how that would go, and I've been humbled in a new found way each day.

Students have offered  their prayers for those without access to clean drinking water, for their neighbor, and their sister who is struggling with depression. Others have prayed for refugees and for those without shelter in this rainy season.

I have grown in humility in being a witness to the prayers of my students.

Thinking back to McGregor's words, I wondered is it easier to exercise humility in victory or in defeat? No doubt, both are important. But my sense is that both offer their own set of challenges. Humility wouldn't have it any other way....

Photo Credits
Foreign Language
SI Cover


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