In the the film, And Justice for All, Al Pacino gives an impassioned speech about the meaning of justice and its pursuit. He is defending a judge he knows to be guilty of a heinous crime and is part of a system he knows to be imperfect if not corrupt. He laments that justice is not the aim of a court proceeding, winning is.
Ultimately he must choose whether to pursue this objective or to sacrifice ego and reward. You can watch here to see what he does.
The film itself is a lesson in humility. He spends the film asking questions, trying to figure out how to do the right things. He willfully professes his ignorance while reaching for a higher goal – truth.
All around us we see examples of people whose chief desire is to prove that they are right. To win. To win an argument, to prove our point, to confirm our existing beliefs.
In the workplace, with the students I teach, in myself, I have seen many times the presumption of knowing the answer and an unwillingness to accept that someone might have a better answer, idea or approach.
Einstein himself said, “A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.” Yet all around us we see self-anointed geniuses who profess to know everything.
There are many benefits of humility. Research shows that people who are humble do better at work, in their relationships. They are more helpful and generous to others and better leaders. And perhaps not surprisingly, students who are humble and willing to be wrong or admit their ignorance actually do better in school.
In our schools, workplace, and culture we find few examples of rewarding or recognizing humility, despite these many benefits.
Winning? Well, we see that recognized and rewarded everywhere.
If you have the chance and you can think of any examples of humility in our culture or in your lives, please share. We can all probably use a larger dose of it.