When the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title Sunday night, they performed a huge public service.
They modeled humility.
Teammates gave one another credit for winning. Jason Terry thanked God. Mark Cuban graciously placed Don Carter in front so the team’s founder could accept the trophy. Carter in turn shared the trophy with wife Linda Jo.
We wouldn’t have faulted the team for some silly showboating on the Miami court — it’s what we’ve all come to expect. Instead, the players celebrated in front of television cameras with major league dignity and restraint.
I’m always on the lookout for examples of humility, partly as a reminder for myself and also to help explain to my children my all-time favorite Bible verse, Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Explaining justice and kindness to children is easy. They have acute awareness of fairness and right and wrong. (Whether it’s practiced is a different story.)
And opportunities to perform and receive kindness abound: sharing, taking care of others, helping without expecting anything in return.
But modesty is a little harder to come by. (And the biblical idea of humility goes even deeper, requiring obedience to God.)
I want my children to feel quietly confident in their abilities, to take pride in their work without bragging, to find self-worth from within and not exterior influences.
That’s simple enough to write about but difficult to practice. The line between a high sense of self-worth and being boastful is easy to cross.
I have a friend who practices humility without struggle.
For example, we’d worked together for a couple of years before I learned that she was a Fulbright scholar. If roles were reversed, I’d have probably weaseled “Fulbright scholar” into conversation by week two.
She listens more than she speaks. She possesses no trace of arrogance. She’s reticent to reveal accolades from work or school not because of a low sense of self but because of innate humility.
I’ve been trying to help Cooper and Katie distinguish between gifts and work — the unique qualities each of us are born with and the effort still required to use those gifts.
It’s the difference between saying, “You’re so smart” and “You worked so hard.” Because we can’t claim credit for the level of intelligence we were born with — but we can control what we do with it.
It’s recognizing that the biggest achievements are often those that require hard work because we lack a particular God-given talent. Cooper’s dyslexia makes spelling especially difficult; when he makes a 90 or 100 on a spelling test, it’s because he practiced diligently, not because he innately knows how to spell.
And it’s recognizing that no one is good at everything, but everyone is very good at something.
Today the Mavericks will take a well-earned victory lap through downtown Dallas, giving fans an opportunity to cheer and clap and holler and wave banners and act silly in honor of team-first players who work very hard to play excellent basketball.
I’m guessing there will be more humility on display on the players’ floats than there may be in the crowd at some points along the route. And that’s worth celebrating.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.