To Be Great is to Be Little
A couple of years ago, I attended a high-level seminar where most of the participants held a C-level positions (CEO, COO, CFO, etc.). You can imagine that all the participants in this seminar were all hotshots in their respective fields; people who are very accomplished in the world. Some went to Princeton, to Harvard, to Wharton. Most had MBAs and many graduated Magna or Summa Cum Laude. It was a room full of very smart people. There were about 40 of us. One of the speakers began his talk by giving us a short quiz. The first question on the quiz was this: “Do you think that your IQ is higher than the average IQ in this room. You had to answer yes or no. They collected our papers and tallied the scores. Here was the result: 39 out of the 40 people in the room answered “yes” they believed that their IQ was higher than the average IQ in the room. In effect, almost everyone thought that they were smarter than everyone else in the room. For those of us who understand basic statistics, we know this is impossible. Usually the distribution of any variable will follow the bell curve; a few will be very smart, a few will be below average, and most will clump together in the center or the average. I was amazed at the confidence in the room.
This is our human nature. We usually think a little too highly of ourselves and too lowly of others. This is the way of the world. We are asked to be number one, to reach for the stars, to climb to the top, often at the expense of others. But this is not the way that Christ taught us. When his apostles asked Jesus who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, he takes a little child and says to them, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3-4). He says: “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). He then proceeds to show us what this means when he washes his apostles’ feet. The antidote to our pride is humble service to the Lord and to others. Very few of us can be great in this world, but all of us can be “little”—And in our littleness, the great God comes to us. For God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.
St. Therese of Lisieux said: “If every flower wanted to be a rose, nature would lose her springtime beauty.” We cannot all be roses, but we can be beautiful daisies, violets, sunflowers, or sampaguitas. Let us be what the Lord made us to be. Let us listen to Jesus and aspire for true greatness, which is littleness. Let us serve one another and think each other as better than ourselves. Let us not worry about who is best, but think about how to love each other best.