Modesty: Bah, Humbug!

by Leonard Bishop

Leonard Bishop

Leonard Bishop

When you finish reading this paragraph you will be convinced that I am one of the few absolutely nice guys you have ever read about.

For long time now I have wondered why people like me. Although my conversation is not always fascinating and I am not foolishly aggressive about picking up dinner checks, people solicit my company. I believe it is because I enjoy being what I have become–just being me. Because I am singular, and individual. And because I am not annoyingly modest.

When someone uses more than 50 years of his life to become accomplished, intelligent, sympathetic, emotionally strong, and generous–it is foolish for him to offer an opinion of himself that states, “Awh, I was just lucky, I guess,” or “You shouldn’t make that much over me. I’m not really all that.” Denying all the agony and dilemma, the turmoil and shock and grief he had experienced to become a good person is demanding too much. Reducing himself to a pittance of self-esteem merely to appear modest is not being guided by reason; it is being tyrannized by a fad.

MODEST: having or showing a moderate or humble opinion of one’s own value, abilities, achievements, etc.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary.)

I believe the formal definition of modest should be changed. It is limiting; it is self-defeating. While I would not favor the behavior of overbearing intimidation, arrogance, or pride, I would redefine the interpretation of modest, so it creates a positive attitude of self-regard. Whenever a rarity or a genuine exception of the rule happens, it should not be hidden behind a facade of social hypocrisy. People like me because I am in a state of daily enjoyment. I have faith in God, love my wife and all my children, I have some friends, and I am perfectly suited and skilled for the work I do.

You may envy my pleasure and even try to misery me, or avoid me–but you cannot dislike a happy man. Most people are modest because they have done little to be immodest about.

My mother used to advise me, “If you are as special as you think you are, people will notice it. Don’t blow your own trumpet. It’s conceited!” But she too was a victim of the Modest Syndrome. Whenever I put my trumpet away, no one hears of me: no one noticed me. They were too engrossed in their own feelings of unworthy to realize that I was special. They were being ultra modest and would not tell me I was unusual, and so passed their feelings of unworth on to me.

If I were a modest person. I would have to learn how to become a liar again. I would be a cookie-cutter non-person who trains himself to become considerately false, deceptively tactful. Just another phone flatterer who is untrustworthy. A modest person is experienced in telling you the satisfying lie. People like being with me because they can depend upon my being trustworthy.

There are satisfying social forms for blowing your own horn without offending people with your noise. Without appearing to be an egotistical fanatic about dominating, or cutting other people down. It is in being able to reveal that you enjoy other people as much as you enjoy being yourself.

The wrong, the defective, the unwholesome personal traits in other people, are easy to realize. Their virtues, their high qualities, the special characteristics are more difficult to discern because they’re hidden behind false modesty.

People like me because they know I am not envious of anyone. If there are people in this world who are better than I am, their caliber does not make me feel less. I never compete with other people. If you want to be the star of the evening, do it. The luster of what you are will not dampen what I am. I am too substantial to be made anonymous.

I am well-liked because I do not judge other people, although I dislike some people who are vicious, greedy, hateful creeps. I do not judge them. I merely exercise my privilege of choice and elect to avoid them. Judgment upon them would be if I demand that others see these people as low and destructive humans. They will be found out, soon.

Immodest: bold, forward, impudent(Webster’s New World Dictionary.)

Immodesty urges me to reveal some of how you can become like I am–a genuinely likable person. Avoid seeing yourself through the standards and appreciations of other people. You are singular, an individual. Estimate yourself by what you believe yourself to be, then accomplish yourself. Become what you believe you are by living as though you have already achieved being what you believe yourself to be.

Don’t be brought down by other people. They are so encased in their own despairing lives that they are ignorant of what you are actually like. They will never know what you are really like unless, with truth and sincerity and immodesty, you tell them.

© 2013 the estate of Leonard Bishop

(first published November 1, 1987 the Manhattan Mercury)





About Catherine Hedge

I am a writer and teacher mentor.
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