Why courage and humility?


I’ve always been interested in how these concepts depend upon each other and interact with people and institutions, hopefully producing a type of quiet courage that gets things done.


Humility: the quality or condition of being humble; having a modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.

Courage: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc.

I’m a Mennonite, and we Anabaptists feel that we have no problem combining these concepts. Humility and Courage are part of our heritage: we honor the early martyrs who suffered for their beliefs in pacifism and in the Kingdom of God over the kingdoms of men. To them, it was humility and obedience to God that produced the courage to act. In fact today, we Mennonites sometimes worry about being prideful about our humility and courage.

Thinking about humility does not mean examining shyness, timidity, or cowardice. I’ve considered titling this blog in such a way that readers might know I mean a belief in peace and justice, housed in a brave but humble approach.

For blog titles, I’ve tried Humility vs Pride, Pride and Humility, Humility Helps, Hike up your Humility, and finally in desperation, Humility Rocks!


Of course, we are Americans, and we thrive on what we like to think of as Individual Courage. ‘Stand your ground. Tell ‘em what you think. Your opinion matters.’

That we often practice this Individual Courage in groups, the bigger and more aggressive the better, seems discordant. That one’s opinions are just that, and not facts, needs to be examined and embraced: especially now, when the algorithms of social media shut us in boxes, from which we must peek out, shout at other groups, and duck back down. We’re sort of stuck.

Real humility enhances courage by taking the ego out of it. Without ego—and with the practiced ability to ask ourselves what God, Allah, Yahweh, Vishnu, Confucius, or ethical people would want us to do—courage can be undertaken in many ways: courage with humility can then be called Humble/Quiet Courage.

Although they deserve our deepest respect for the sacrifices they have made, saints and martyrs, both religious and political, do not give us our only examples of humble courage. We must learn to recognize humility and courage in ourselves, in our smaller, daily lives:

If we can begin to strive for humility based upon quiet, ethical thought—not just opinion, nostalgia, or anger—we may find the courage to listen and compromise. And at this time in our history, those are precious commodities, indeed.

Best wishes and have a good week.


You can find my blog and a number of my short stories on: gretaholtwriter.com.

{Thank you to my niece, Addie Liechty, for taking the picture above that is this newsletter’s featured image. Her blog is: https://addieswriting.wordpress.com.}

Greta Holt


  1. Mary Liechty on March 8, 2018 at 10:13 am

    I loved your comment on social media. So true. Especially as we look from our vantage points of privilege and isolation. Thanks.

    • Greta Holt on March 8, 2018 at 10:37 am

      Those boxes can seem safe, but they hold us in. I like your naming of privilege and isolation.

  2. Judy DaPolito on March 9, 2018 at 10:46 am

    I deeply agree that we need to listen to all the voices around us–and to respond without raising our own voices to drown theirs out.

    • Greta Holt on March 9, 2018 at 11:02 am

      This is true for how we speak to ourselves, how we communicate in conversations, and how we participate in the work of group decision-making.

  3. Mary Thomas Watts on March 10, 2018 at 9:22 am

    Thank you for this window into the spiritual values of the Mennonite tradition. As an Anglican, I have probably not ranked humility highly enough among the spiritual gifts. And so this is another area from which I can learn from you.

  4. Greta Holt on March 10, 2018 at 11:40 am

    Humility is a tough concept. It’s necessary for listening and mediating, but without a healthy dose of assertiveness, we can’t lead. Perhaps the work is in finding balance. I am smiling at your comment about being Anglican. Emphasizing humility can carry its own brand of pride. We all have to work at it.

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