You know that saying “You can’t see the forest for the trees?” Today, I want to talk about the forest… and the trees… and the flowers… and the animals… and EVERYTHING else we might encounter in the great big world.
In fact, it’s that entire GREAT BIG world I want to talk about.
Have you ever taken a moment to consider how tiny and insignificant we are in the scope of the whole world? Even our most significant personal moments are minor when considered on a global scale. I’m reminded as I write these words of my favorite painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Breughel the Elder:Look closely at the painting. Can you find Icarus? It’s sort of like those “Where’s Waldo” books that were around when I was a kid. If you look closely, you’ll see that poor Icarus is drowning in Brughel’s painting (we only see his legs). The worst thing has happened to him; he’s fallen out of the sky and into the water. Even so, the world continues around him: The farmer keeps plowing his field, and the ship sails on toward its destination. No one even stops to ask if he’s okay.
The great big world continues onward with or without us.
Sounds a bit depressing, doesn’t it? So where am I going with this? Why am I focused on this sad reality of our insignificance in the world?
Simply put: HUMILITY. Recognizing how insignificant and weak we are in the world allows us to ask others for help when we need it. Rather than having the attitude that we can do anything on our own, humility reminds us that we are just one element in this great big world.
Speaking of that great big world, we want our kids to grow up to be self-confident. To that end (rightly or wrongly), we award everyone trophies to help build up their belief in themselves. Self-confidence is only one pillar of a strong foundation, though. Self-confidence without humility results in hubris, the excessive pride that leads to disaster in just about every Greek tragedy (and a lot of our own personal tragedies, too, if we’re being honest). Instead, let’s try a different formula:
Self-Confidence + Humility = Balance
Humility isn’t boastful. It isn’t “in your face.” It isn’t meek or timid either, though. It’s the quiet strength that will see us through even those moments when we’re having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees.
Lessons Nature Teaches About HUMILITY
- You won’t always be the winner: You build the perfect sandcastle—only to have the tide wash it away. You organize the most beautiful campsite anyone’s ever seen—only to have a wind storm blow your decor into the lake. These things happen when you’re outdoors. They remind us that it’s not all about us.
- Good leaders don’t need praise: There are plenty of opportunities to act as a leader in outdoor settings. You could lead a group on a hike or organize a flag football game at the park. In the end, it doesn’t matter how good you were as a leader; what matters is that everyone has a good time. Good leaders understand and accept this.
- Service is its own reward: Picking up trash along the highway, planting a community garden, or raking the neighbor’s leaves are all tasks that take time. This is time we could be spending doing other things we enjoy. However, there is inherent reward in helping others.
- The natural world has value: It’s easy to lose sight of the value of nature—see the trees and neglect the forest. Just take a walk around the block, though, and count the bird species you see or try to identify trees by their leaves. Each of these living things provides value—to the earth and ultimately to humans ourselves.
- Admitting when you’re wrong is not a sign of weakness: I wrote a post recently about failure. One of the lessons we learn from outdoor adventures is that failure is a good thing. Likewise, admitting when we’re wrong or when we don’t have the answers or when we’re scared is good for us. When you’re out geocaching and get the coordinates wrong, admitting your mistake is a sign of maturity.
- Getting out of our comfort zone is important for personal growth: The first time my now-husband took me rock climbing, I cried before I even got into the harness. Yup, embarrassing tears of fear and frustration rolled down my face. I was WAY out of my comfort zone. Sure, I would have liked to stay on my couch and read a book. When I got over myself and faced my fear, however, I found a new hobby I love.
I realize that there are countless ways to learn HUMILITY, and those lessons don’t have to come from being outdoors. However, spending time in the great big outdoor world reminds us how insignificant our own concerns are and gives us the opportunity to be part of something bigger than ourselves.