By Ellen Nimmo
Two birds, one stone, my aim is amazing. – Drake
Two birds, one stone, my aim isn’t that great. I’m not even sure I have the right form for throwing, I don’t want to draw attention to myself and anyway, shouldn’t we just ask Drake to do it? – Ellen
That sounded a bit braggy didn’t it? That bit about the two birds and the one stone and Drake’s awesome aim. Not quite as cool and confident as our Champagne Papi, is me, Ellen. That seems understandable, right? I mean, who is that cool? Drizzy is I reckon. But if you think he sounds arrogant and I sound humble, let’s pause. What if my “modesty” is just a different version, a different form of arrogance? The ego plays tricks.
Here’s what happened.
Yesterday I spent an hour with a friend. A mentor of sorts. She and I met to talk about birds. Not literal birds, but swooping, squawking, grub eating, metaphorical ones. Ones that eat up the garden, harass the cat, peck at windows, and poop on heads. I wanted her input on how to deal with these birds, because here I am, with only one little stone.
My friend is wise.
She told me not to let apprehension squelch my stone. Birds of this sort: anxiety, fear, misunderstanding turned into mistrust, anger, selfishness, inadequacies that haunt, passive-aggression, and entitlement – these birds have it coming. Actually, I’m not sure she would use this analogy of violence as a way to deal with such birds, but here we are nevertheless.
As we talked, we discovered that we both suffer from a similar affliction, a resistance to being perceived a certain way. A deep desire to be known as the humble servant, the quiet encourager, the wise counsel whose voice is heard, but whose tenor is quickly forgotten. What’s wrong with that you ask? Well, we think, nothing. The heart of that desire seems pure and good. But, we queried, is there an egocentric tendency, a masked thief, robbing us blind of opportunities to exercise the goodness we assert? Possibly.
False humility. Have you heard of that? I’ve heard it a few times and I think it is exactly what my dear friend and I were describing. A “humility” that is really covering up a deep-down feeling that one is superior. In psychological terms it might sound something like this:
“We should not be astonished if in the cases where we see an inferiority complex, we find a superiority complex more or less hidden.” So, these two complexes are reflections of each other; perhaps, two sides of the same coin. They are similar in that both are egocentric complexes, where one form is generally found to be masking the other; however, their manifestations appear quite different. –Alfred Adler
Adler was, at one time, a colleague of Freud, just for some background. The two had deep disagreements and eventually parted ways. At any rate, Adler seemed to think that a person’s inferiority complex came from a similar place in the human psyche as the well-known superiority complex. I looked up the process for Adler’s form of therapy and (in its simplest form) it is outlined like so –
I mean, as far as psychological mumbo goes, this piques my interest. The reason is that I think the above process may just be how we go through life. It’s how we learn, grow, change, and adapt. It’s how tasks get done and how inventions are made. It’s how relationships are formed and how they evolve too.
Now, regardless of whether or not you agree, we’ve still got gaggles of niggling birds to contend with. What shall we do?
The superiority complex might claim to be the conqueror of conquerors, the savior of all. Whirling stones at anything that moves, making a mess in the name of pride. Forgetting of course to base his/her/their thought in reality. One simply cannot knock out all the swooping birds for everyone ever. Are you with me? And, false humility, well, it might mumble an excuse, “Might as well forget the birds, I’m no expert.” Insisting it simply can’t be done, “Even if I tried, I’d miss, I couldn’t ever do something so grandiose.” Crown me with modesty, please. But, true humility would be able to see things for what they are and take action. True humility enables others to see the real limits, accept each person and circumstance for what it is, and think creatively, collaboratively about solutions. True humility empowers others, it leads with discernment and hope. True humility isn’t afraid to question or change. Humility, the true kind, can look square into the eyes of its own mistake and not shrink, hide or blame, but stand in the light of reality and try again. It engages, assesses, gains insight and reorients. True humility can accept compliment and criticism alike.
As I consider the proverbial birds in life, I hope that I can learn use the one stone I have that strikes with precision: a true humility that finds its basis in reality, yet takes aim, flying forward towards good again and again.