I came across what was to me an astounding statement while working on my follow-up blog to the last one. However, I am taking a break from that blog in order to write about this statement I came across. The statement, really one word initially, is humility. That one word was tweeted from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) this last Sunday, March 29th. One word, humility, with no further explanation.
Obviously, this led to further questions about his meaning. As you may know, Dr. Tedros is himself at the epicenter of all epicenters! As reported in Yahoo News, Dr. Tedros humbly stated, “…scientific tools can only take us so far in the battle against COVID-19…”. When asked for further explanation, Dr. Tedros replied, “COVID-19 is reminding us how vulnerable we are, how connected we are and how dependent we are on each other,” and “In the eye of a storm like COVID, scientific and public health tools are essential – but so are humility and kindness…Solidarity, humility and assuming the best of each other... we can and we will overcome this together.”
He himself gave a rationale for tweeting this, “Coming together is the only option we have. Unity is the only option we have to defeat this virus.” Don’t miss the implication: coming together in a spirit of cooperation on a grand scale is contingent upon humility and kindness among other things. Also, don’t miss the underlying qualification – scientific tools can only take us so far.
Friends, I find these statements by Dr. Tedros to be astonishing and profound because it stands in contradistinction to what so many of us have idolized as a panacea for so many ills, science. We live in a western culture which finds its very roots in the Age of Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, dominating Europe from the 17th to 19th centuries. Ever since then, for Europe and America, the Scientific Method has reigned supreme. This in turn birthed yet another movement, that of Utopianism. With great hubris, this movement held that total perfection was attainable in every area of life. To be eliminated were disease, war, societal strife, limited life span, even some limitations imposed by physics.
Utopianism and arrogant optimism came to an abrupt end with World War I because humility was in short supply. Sir Edward Grey of England anticipated the catastrophic results as war drums beat. As he looked at the dawning light from his desk in the Foreign Office, he saw the gaslights in St. James’s Park being switched off. For him this portended the devastation to come. “The lamps are going out all over Europe,’’ he is reputed to have said. “We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.’’
So, harkening to the voice of Dr. Tedros, I find a gentle rebuke for me and should be to you also. I don’t know about you, but I’m often seduced by the wizardry of science and technology. I see how I myself have unconsciously bought into the idol of progress, again, set in motion by Modernism. So, I have been humbled by the coronavirus itself, and the poignant but penetrating assessment by Dr. Tedros.
Humility is the precondition to harmonizing discovery and the universal prerequisite to synergistic cooperation. As a result of this character trait, no one person is concerned about self-centered fame, accolades, recognition, self-promotion, recognition, or self-aggrandizement. Rather, humility is understood to be necessary for: listening, listening attentively to each other, freeing others up to do their best, and looking for insight and truth in every person’s voice. It is this that harnesses the corporate energy of revolutionary advancements.
Thus, we come back to the mandate of Veronica Young and of Eva’s Closet. The beginning part of our mission statement is, “We are committed to promoting and improving human life…” Consequently, we stand with the admonition of Dr. Tedros; we link arms with him and, hopefully, thousands of others in this war against coronavirus, but more importantly, the lack of humility.
No one has captured the humility described above more than one of our founders, Cynthia Poland. She has tirelessly and almost single handedly spearheaded the expansion and capabilities of Eva’s Closet. It would take at least a dozen blogs to describe her efforts. She has maintained the perfect balance of task and people orientation. Yet she, herself has never once sought acclaim
Cynthia misses no one with her boisterous laughter, gregarious embrace, and amazing smile. No one goes unrewarded by her encouraging words! No voice is ignored. She masterfully empowers others with confidence and positivity. Everyone leaves Cynthia feeling better than they felt before.
However, she is no wall flower because she can be feisty. She will throw herself into the fray or step in the ring in a second – tenacious and ferocious, even if outnumbered. But see, in reality her behavior best emulates a word used in the Bible, the New Testament, for meekness or humility.
This word, transliterated praotes, which is variously translated as gentleness, meekness or humble. There is common meaning among all these translated words as I’m sure you can see. Williams Barclay is a well-known New Testament scholar who wrote a very popular commentary series on most New Testament books. About this word, Barclay comments on the lexical meaning and semantic range, noting that the word means “gentle” when used of things like a gentle breeze or gentle word.
However, Barclay also understands praotes to have some steel and power to it. In classical Greek, it can refer to a beast that has been tamed, or a wild horse having become obedient and responsive to its master’s direction. It is strength under control. Thus, it is entirely false to think of humility as some obsequious conformity to popularism, or retreat from adversity, or lacking teeth. It stands, even fights for a cause that is greater than any one person, like Dr. Tedros with coronavirus, like Cynthia and Veronica for Eva’s Closet.
Therefore, following Cynthia Poland’s lead Veronica Young’s mandate, we are working individually and corporately on humility. I for one need to exhibit far, far more of it. I need to check my selfish ambition and vain conceits. Fortunately, I have a team of people who pristinely model this. They are my teachers and I learn from them.
Humility is the word of the day. May it sweep the world into a TRUE golden era.