Can a father teach his son to pursue greatness humbly? Alexandre Havard, an expert on magnanimity and formerly a professor of law at the Sorbonne, insists magnanimity is humble. Otherwise magnanimity (the pursuit of great things) festers into pride and self-centeredness.
I once had a professor of psychology who was commissioned by a major international health organization to lead a research team on a major child issue. This was his highest professional honor, but he mentioned it every few lectures in a self-aggrandizing way that weakened his capacity to inspire us.
True greatness places itself at the service of others. Had he been humble, he would have used his great accomplishment to show us how to aspire to similar heights in our chosen specialties. Who knows who among us would have become even greater. We did learn much from him and he was generous in other ways. But what opportunities our professor missed; with a humble core, how great he would have been. A savvy father wants his son to understand this difference.
In the absence of personal contact with great humble men and women, stories can instruct and inspire our children, as happened with a family friend. Her parents divorced when she was six and she grew up as an only child in an irreligious, radical-feminist household. Today she is a wonderful wife and mother of a large family that is extraordinarily close and competent, causing all who know them to marvel at her accomplishment, even more so considering her upbringing.
One day, discussing books with us, she mentioned she had recently handed her teenage son the novel ‘Meet the Austins’ without telling him what the book meant to her. It’s a pleasant story about a family with an understanding, nurturing mother. It had captured the imagination of our friend when she was sixteen and it became her goal in life to raise a family like the Austins.
When her son finished the book, she asked him,
“How’d you like it?”
He said, “That’s us!”
Without knowing it, he had just given his mother a memory she has treasured ever since. And for us, he taught the power of stories to change lives.
The author of Meet the Austins cultivated her greatness to create a story that made it possible for a 16-year-old to aspire to her own singular greatness.
Savvy parents make sure to have many inspiring stories in their home library collection.
For the good of the child, and the future magnanimous society,
P.S. I would welcome the titles of books and stories you recommend (firstname.lastname@example.org)