Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 9

TOWARD WELL-BEING
Cultivating Humility
By Denise Perme
A
few years ago, D.C. Bar
Lawyer Assistance Program
(LAP) staff joined a retreat for
LAP professionals at a residential
addiction treatment center
with a treatment track specifically
for attorneys. We participated in
some of the same exercises the
center offered to patients, including
one involving what we were told
was a rope maze.
In this exercise we were blindfolded and led to
the maze. Our hands were placed on the rope,
and the treatment center counselors told us that
there was a way out. At the end of one rope was
a tree and the start of another rope going back
the way we came. It was a life-size version of a
cat's cradle, the string puzzle children make with
their hands, except we could not see it.
We walked back and forth holding onto the
rope, fumbling and bumping into one another.
Occasionally, the counselors would erupt in
cheers and announce that someone had found
the way out. This made the rest of us still in the
maze anxious and even more determined to
find it. The counselors told us, repeatedly, to
raise our hand if we needed something. We
thought we needed answers. " Is this the exit? "
we asked over and over upon finding a new
tree or knot in the rope.
There was a way out of the maze, but it wasn't
what we imagined. Finding an exit required a
transformation from an ego-driven determination
to succeed to an experience of humility
and letting go. We had to look outside of ourselves
while wandering alone, together, in the
darkness. It was a perfect challenge for lawyers.
It was also just like life.
" Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's
thinking about yourself less, " wrote C. S. Lewis.
Webster's defines humility as " freedom from
pride or arrogance, a lowliness of mind " or " a
modest estimate of one's worth. " To many, the
word is negative, connoting low self-esteem.
However, humility is strongly linked with emotional
and physical health, according to a 2016
article in the Journal of Positive Psychology.1
Research from various psychologists has found
that humility also strengthens social connections
and is a virtue to be consciously cultivated
as a path to mental health, peace, and
acceptance of ourselves.2
To gain a level of
humility is to understand that no one is more,
or less, worthy or special. We are not always
right, we don't have all the answers, we are not
omnipotent. We are all just humans struggling
to find our way.
One can argue that humans are innately competitive.
If that is true, lawyers get extra training.
The competition begins right before law school
and never ends. In this age of social media,
there are endless ways we compare ourselves
to others and feel superior or inferior. We are
relentlessly self-focused with egos in overdrive,
and our mental health suffers as a result.
" Lawyers are consumed with the egotistical
belief that we control outcomes - our cases,
our reputations, our careers, " says Dick Flynt,
a retired intellectual property attorney and
member of the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance
Committee. " This is not a free and peaceful way
of living. It leads to resentment, stress, and the
self-centered fear of not obtaining what we
want or of losing what we already have. "
As an antidote, Flynt recommends quieting
our egos through service to others.3
" Humble
lawyers are better lawyers because they think
of their clients' needs ahead of their own ego's
demands, " he says. Flynt offers other tips for
cultivating humility, including being mindful of
how we show up for the people in our lives
and how we communicate. " Be a good listener
rather than mentally drafting your contribution
to a conversation, " he says. " If you are bursting
with the need to speak, tell yourself to listen. "
Other strategies to consider: expressing gratitude4
and
consciously viewing things from
another's perspective. We all have strengths
and challenges. A humble self is mindful of that
in the moment - in a non-judgmental way.
Know deep down that you are not perfect, and
despite that you are worthy. We all need help.
Humble moments feel like a pressure valve
release. We felt that relief when we finally
found the maze " exit " and got our own cheers
and hugs. Not all of us found our way out that
day. The maze is a metaphor for life, and some
of us stay alone in the dark.
The treatment center asked us not to reveal the
details about the maze exit, so I will leave you
with this question instead: Human to human, is
there anything you need?
Reach Denise Perme, associate director of
the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program, at
lap@dcbar.org.
NOTES
1 Krause, Neal et al., " Humility, Stressful Life Events,
and Psychological Well-Being, Journal of Positive
Psychology, Volume 11 (2016), tandfonline.com/
doi/full/10.1080/17439760.2015.1127991.
2 Zakrzewski, Vicki, " How Humility Will Make You
the Greatest Person Ever, " Greater Good Magazine
(January 2016), greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/
item/humility_will_make_you_greatest_person_
ever.
3 blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/
the-pressing-need-for-everyone-to-quiet-theiregos.
4
Kruse, Elliott et al., " An Upward Spiral Between
Gratitude and Humility, " Social Psychological and
Personality Science (May 2014), sonjalyubomirsky.
com/files/2012/09/Kruse-Chancellor-RubertonLyubomirsky-2014.pdf.
JANUARY/FEBRUARY
2022
* WASHINGTON LAWYER 9
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/humility_will_make_you_greatest_person_ever https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/humility_will_make_you_greatest_person_ever https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/humility_will_make_you_greatest_person_ever https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/humility_will_make_you_greatest_person_ever https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/humility_will_make_you_greatest_person_ever https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-pressing-need-for-everyone-to-quiet-their-egos/ https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-pressing-need-for-everyone-to-quiet-their-egos/ https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-pressing-need-for-everyone-to-quiet-their-egos/ http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/files/2012/09/Kruse-Chancellor-Ruberton-Lyubomirsky-2014.pdf http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/files/2012/09/Kruse-Chancellor-Ruberton-Lyubomirsky-2014.pdf http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/files/2012/09/Kruse-Chancellor-Ruberton-Lyubomirsky-2014.pdf

Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022

From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Protecting the Integrity of the Profession: A Conversation on Legal Ethics
How Far Should You Go? Frivolous Claims & Litigation Ethics
The Solo/Small Firm Life: Lean, Mean Business Machine
Upping Your Game With Professional Coaching
The Founding of the D.C. Bar
Taking the Stand
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
ABA Delegate’s Corner
The Pro Bono Effect
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Intro
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - A
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - B
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 1
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 2
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 4
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 5
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Protecting the Integrity of the Profession: A Conversation on Legal Ethics
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 11
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 12
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 13
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 14
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 15
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - How Far Should You Go? Frivolous Claims & Litigation Ethics
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 17
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 18
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 19
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - The Solo/Small Firm Life: Lean, Mean Business Machine
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 21
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 22
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 23
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Upping Your Game With Professional Coaching
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 25
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 26
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 27
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - The Founding of the D.C. Bar
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 29
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Taking the Stand
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 31
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 32
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 33
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 37
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 39
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 41
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 43
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - ABA Delegate’s Corner
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - 47
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - January/February 2022 - Cover4
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