The higher our position the more modestly we should behave. – Cicero
What does that mean?
This was an interesting quote to source, as it had variant wording. And while attributed to Cicero, he claims it was said by King Philip of Macedonia (Alexander the Great’s father).
The difference is probably due to translation, but both of the quotes urge us to be careful with our power and influence. The more we have, the more care we should take.
The quotes specify behaving modestly and walking humbly. Both are urging us to avoid being rash, brash or full of ourselves. It emphasizes restraint.
Those with power who are willing to wield it at whim, without humility or modesty, are truly to be feared. This quote urges us not to be such a beast.
Why is behaving modestly important?
The alternative to behaving modestly is to behave immodestly. In short, to be brash, obnoxious and a jerk. The loudmouth, braggart and self-centered person in every movie. The one too dense or self-absorbed to notice that their behavior is so bad that it is driving people away from them, and annoying everyone around them.
Is that the person you aspire to be, to be like or to be liked by? I would hope not. People like that are what give the handful of good and kind people who have wealth and/or power (i.e. a high place or position) bad name. Whether they are Royalty or Business Tycoons, their very behavior turns people against them.
Instead, if we take the time to think before acting, we can ask ourselves if what we are about to do is the best we can do, or if it is beneath us. The more highly we are placed, the more behaviors are beneath us. We need to comport ourselves with great care, grace, modesty, humility and dignity. To do anything less should be beneath us.
Where can I apply this in my life?
I want to start by reminding my US readers that roughly half my viewership is from outside the US. While we in the US have a very firmly entrenched definition of “the 1%”, a cultural shorthand for the wealthy and privileged, I want to remind them that to the rest of the world, we are the 1%, even our poor.
When placed in perspective, all of us who are reading this on our computers or phones are by definition highly placed in life. Yes, if you’re in a particularly rich environment, it may not seem that way, but you are, on a global scale, in pretty good shape if you have a computer or smart-phone.
As an example, a friend of mine from High School used to complain he lived in the smallest house in his neighborhood. That was interesting, until I saw his neighborhood. His house was easily twice the size of the one I lived in and cost four times as much. And my house was above average. He just didn’t know better.
He didn’t know how high his position was. He only saw his own neighborhood, and in that, he was not highly placed, so he did not behave well. Once he understood the larger picture of the rest of our affluent suburb, he calmed down and behaved with greater modesty. He behaved more modestly the greater his understanding became.
That is both the benefit and the curse of relativism. You can always find someone in better circumstances and in a worse position than yourself. Taken in that context, we are all in a high position, compared to someone else, somewhere on the planet. You might never meet them, but you can still behave modestly.
Yet it is easy to forget the larger world when we are the poorest of our friends, or drive the worst car or live in the crummiest neighborhood. But if we can look beyond ourselves and out into the greater world, we can realize how high our position is, and behave in accordance to that fact.
Take a moment and consider how you tend to behave. Where are you modest, and where are you somewhat less than modest? How and where can you behave more modestly? How would you define the term ‘more modestly’ and when would you feel a need to apply it to your life? Please take a moment to consider these question.
In our lives, we have choices. Do we react or do we decide to act? Do we respond with modesty, or with loud self-centeredness? At each point where we could decide, please take a moment and choose to behave more modestly rather than more brashly. How much nicer a world would we have if we all did this?