There’s a nice poem by Valerie Cox circulating on the Internet about a woman who bought some cookies and a book at an airport and sat down to read and nibble while waiting for her plane. She soon noticed a man sitting next to her, who casually took a cookie from the bag.
Although shocked and seething, the woman remained silent as the man, without the slightest sign of shame or gratitude, quietly helped himself, matching her cookie for cookie.
When there was one cookie left, she watched in amazement as he picked it up, smiled at her as if he were being gracious, and broke it in half. He ate one half and gave her the other. Congratulating herself for maintaining her cool, she said nothing to this rude cookie thief, astonished at the nerve of some people.
Later, when she was settling into her seat on the plane, she rummaged through her purse and discovered the bag of cookies she’d purchased, still unopened. The moral message is contained in the poem’s closing stanza:
“If mine are here,” she moaned with despair,
“Then the others were his, and he tried to share.”
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.
Being sure is not the same as being right. Certainty without humility can lead to self-righteousness that distorts our view and understanding of the world and of people.
Humility doesn’t require us to be equivocal or doubtful about our deepest convictions. What it asks is that we hold and advocate our beliefs without dismissing the possibility that others may be right instead.