I have the highest admiration for modest people; those men and women who prefer to ‘hide their light under a bushel’. Even though this columnist has a lot to be modest about – in all humility, I have to admit to being a current member of the Dizzie Dean school of ‘It ain’t braggin’ if you’ve done it!’ However, if I had to do it all over again, I would project myself in a more modest module. Let me give you a couple of examples of high-achieving modest men I have known.
For fifteen years now I have sat beside the same guy during football matches in Croke Park. Tyrone man, Michael Slevin and I have become friends over that time and I have gotten not only to know Michael, but many members of his family as well. I got to know his girl-friend, Orla; then his wife Orla, and then Oisin’s mother, Orla. If Michael has a fault it is that he is gentle and too soft-spoken (not a northern characteristic I hear you holler!) and I have to strain to hear what he says during the matches.
What Michael and I have most in common is our love of everything GAA and naturally these topics take up most of our chatting time. I would have ‘mentioned’ in passing that I had won an U-14 hurling schools championship medal. Well … ‘it ain’t braggin’ if you’ve done it!’
A couple of years back I was chatting Michael’s father during the half-time break. Talk came up about the recently retired – and one of the all-time greats, Sean Cavanagh; and his long service to Tyrone. ‘Aye … he was on the team with Michael that won the All-Ireland U-21.’ ‘WHAT??’ With that, Michael returned to his seat, as I exclaimed; ‘You have to be the most modest man I have ever met …. An All-Ireland medal … and you never mentioned it?’ Michael just smiled and said; ‘I’m not a bit modest at all … I have two of them … 2000 & 2001!!!’ See what I mean? That’s class – and the difference between yours truly and modest Michael.
Several years ago I had a friend called David. David was, and still is a vet.
The newly qualified vet, along with his newly qualified teacher-wife set off on their honeymoon. On the cruise they connected with another young Irish couple – as one does. Naturally, they asked each other what they did in the day job. David was so enthusiastic about his new small-animal clinic that he talked about it a lot.
Annmarie talked teaching and told many stories out of school. ‘What do you do?’ David asked his new friend when they sat down to their first evening dinner. ‘I’m a carpenter’, the man replied. Well, in fairness, I suppose there isn’t much room for a wide-ranging discussion to that answer. The carpenter’s wife stayed at home with their two small children and ‘answered the phone sometimes!’
A couple of weeks after coming home and blissfully settling into married life, David was watching the nine o’clock news on RTE one evening when suddenly he screamed out for Annmarie to ‘come quick.’ There on the screen, in full living colour, was their ‘carpenter friend’ being interviewed. The guy was the MD of Ireland’s largest kitchen cabinet manufacturers, announcing a major export deal; and according to the reporter, the company was worth 400 million … in old money!
David told me that this taught him a valuable lesson about being too quick to sell himself.
Mrs Youcantbeserious is not like me. She is a modest person and never leads with stuff about herself or her family. How many times has she said to me on the way home, ‘you had no need to tell them that.’ ‘It ain’t braggin’ if you’ve done it,’ I usually reply.
Modesty, I suppose, is being able to suppress one’s ego and making it clear that you don’t know everything. There is nothing wrong with telling your story; but at least consider the possibility that the other fellow may have a better tale to tell!
Forty years ago I was very friendly with an old guy called Bartle. Bartle had a wonderful saying, which I never forgot and oft times repeat: ‘A humble man cannot be hurt.’
I didn’t learn enough humility from Bartle, but the fact that I am telling you about it now could be an indicator of the ‘new modest me …’