Humility and Formality


Date: Wed, Mar 4, 1998 12:02 PM EDT
From: SandraDodd
His Grace, Duke Olaf, has asked to be added to the list.

First, the good part of something longer I wrote last year. It's related to the "always make the more medieval choice" bit which originally came from me to Leif in his vigil and which Gunwaldt later used to my temporary disadvantage when he brought apple juice instead of Dr Pepper. This one is "always make the more honorable choice." I'm sorry I didn't keep the notes on who the first quotes are from; they're not me and not anyone I know.

"Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it."

"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself."

When a person has a choice between doing something more honorable or less honorable (which happens two dozen or two hundred times a day), it makes the person better to take the better path. Simplistic? It's an absolute, that being better makes you better. Even if nobody sees you it works, but if people see you your behavior will affect their own. Maybe not right that day–they might make fun of you for being good. Think about what sort of friends would do THAT. I think we all have a few. Someone needs to stand up to them. (Ælflæd, Aug 6, 1997)


Sometimes we need to stand up to ourselves and say, "Yes, it felt good to gloat, to dance the superior dance right out in public, but it leaves a bad afterimage."

A superior dance danced for a very small audience is one thing and often understandable. Constant gloating is the sin of pride. Some of the classical sins and virtues are out of style in the 20th century, and therefor hard even to discuss or understand, but take another try on this "pride" problem if it's applicable in your life.

Another essay from Bright Ideas and True Confessions, written years ago, before I knew anyone on this list.


Consider these sentiments:

  • “In five years I’ll be running the Society.” (by a newcomer)
  • “If I stepped back in right now I could take over.” (by an inactive peer)
  • “This is going to be the best [certain event] there’s ever been.” (by an autocrat doing more talking than working)
  • “We’re going to start a shire, and I’ll be [baron or baroness] within two years.” (by someone in a very small town)
  • These are paraphrases of real brags. None came true. The reality of what did or did not happen was not in itself shameful, it’s just that things would have seemed better without those big boasts.

    Imagine two young fighters at practice every week. One begins every sentence with “When I’m knighted,” and the other mentions, maybe once a month, “If I’m ever a knight. . .” All other things being equal, which would you prefer to see knighted?

    Two dishes are set before you. One presenter says, “I’m the best cook in three kingdoms,” and the other says “I did my best, I hope you like it.” If the first dish is better than the second, it will be no big deal, right? If the second dish is better, what will you think of “the best cook in three kingdoms?”

    Somewhere along the continuum, realistic thinking and self control turn into tact and then humility. Don’t set yourself up for failure and embarrassment by declaring a goal or claiming a skill level which you may not live up to. If you really are good, people will tell you so. If others are to respond to you, let it be to bring you up, rather than to pull you down.

    More to follow.


    Return to topics list, or continue to #5, Humility.

    Copyright © Sandra Dodd
    1998, 2002