“Humility Is The Antidote To Grievance”

“Humility Is The Antidote To Grievance”


Leonard Zwelling


The title for this blog comes from an essay in The New York Times on April 21 by former Times op-ed guru and current Duke professor Frank Bruni.

He notes three warnings he gives his students on day one of his classes.

First, grammar and spelling count. If they are not prepared to make sure they get this right, they will be disappointed in their grades.

Second, in class discussion he wants to hear all voices. No one person will dominate the floor.

Third, he tells his students that it is common for him to say, “it’s complicated” for it always is.

He links these three tenets together under the heading of humility. If you are not willing to give yourself over to rules, regulations, and reality, you are not sufficiently humble. You will feel aggrieved.

Without re-writing his superb essay, I’ll note he asserts that humility and grievance cannot live together. Currently, our country is one full of grievance. Both political parties are soaked in the mindset of grievance.

The left wallows in it. Everyone except rich, white men are being taken advantage of and the government is there to correct it. What if the left met reality with humility and realized that corrective action for the world’s ills is both pricey and time- intensive. It cannot be done through a wholesale giveaway of the resources of the federal government. The left is also ignorant of history given their demonstrations in favor of a terrorist organization.

Mr. Trump is all about grievance as is MAGA. His followers believe in a better America of the past and sticking it to those liberals who are interfering with its reinstitution. They dislike the “liberal elite.”

The nightly news is all grievance except the stories about tornados and those folks have a real grievance. What is war, demonstrations, and mass shootings if not about grievance.

I fear academia has been reduced to grievance as well.

The faculty have many real complaints, but those complaints are rarely heard or sought by leadership. Leadership thinks faculty is the problem. Its grievance is with the faculty not being productive enough or being unprofessional.

What if everyone were more humble?

The faculty needs to understand the pressure on leadership from financial demands and regulatory hurdles.

Of course, leadership would do well to find a mechanism to get input from the faculty and share the burden of the pressures and seek solutions from all with an interest in the success of the academic enterprise.

Here is some of Bruni’s advice:

He quotes the former Republican governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker who in turn quoted Philippians 2:3, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, rather, in humility value others above yourself.”

“Governing, as opposed to demagogy is about earning others’ trust and cooperation. Exhibiting a willingness to listen and to hear them goes a long way toward that.”

“People don’t like being accused, people don’t like being condemned, people don’t like being alienated. It’s a matter of conversation and persuasion.”

We need a lot more humility in our public discourse in the political arena.

And, we need a lot more humility in our institutions of higher learning and academic medicine.

I urge you to read this essay.

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