Shannon Williams

Shannon Williams

Humility.

Now that’s a word more of us could implement in our daily lives.

Here are some definitions of the word from a few different sources:

nMerriam-Webster: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people; the quality or state of being humble.

nDictionary.com: modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, rank, etc.

nCambridge Dictionary: the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others; lack of pride.

And like most things, there are also references in the Bible about humility. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up,” and Luke 14:11 says, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

As I thought about the act of humility, I was reminded of a name most people have either forgotten or never knew existed: Dr. John W.V. Cordice Jr.

Cordice exhibited humility to a degree that exceeds most individuals’ standards.

In 1958 while Martin Luther King Jr. was signing copies of his book in New York, a deranged woman stabbed him. He was immediately rushed to Harlem Hospital, where then-Gov. Averell Harriman insisted that Black doctors be involved in the procedure.

For years, most of the country believed Italian-American Dr. Emil Naclerio participated in the surgery, as did African-Americans Cordice and Dr. Aubré de Lambert Maynard, who served as the hospital’s chief of surgery at the time.

Several decades went by and Maynard received and took credit for performing the surgery. However, during an interview years after Maynard passed away, Cordice publically revealed the truth: The only two surgeons who operated on King were Cordice and Naclerio.

When asked why he never said anything before, Cordice simply replied, “We were not going to challenge him, because he was the boss.”

Though Cordice’s humble stance almost left him out of history books, those who knew him said such modest deeds were standard characteristics of the surgeon.

I have recently encountered people exhibiting anything but humble characteristics, the most surprising from a longtime friend of mine who refused to apologize for a misdeed.

That was a particularly defining moment for me and allowed me to see a different side of that individual. I thought, “How incredibly selfish and inconsiderate of a person to intentionally not apologize for something they did wrong.” It was extremely disappointing to me — particularly because I hold this person in such high regard. In my opinion, that individual’s refusal to apologize superseded their misdeed.

While I can move past such an instance and not resent the person, many people wouldn’t, which made me think about the importance of us all practicing more humility in regards to ourselves and others with whom we have shared interactions or friendships.

I recently ran across a quotation that I wrote down years ago. While I can’t remember the source of the comment — probably a book I’d read — I take heed to its significance.

“Humility is exactly what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons. Humility dissipates anger and heals old wounds. Humility allows us to see the dignity and worth of all God’s people. Humility distinguishes the wise leader from the arrogant power-seeker.”

Cordice, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 94, was an incredibly humble man and a wise leader. His actions, and those of others, are constant reminders for me, as an individual, to continuously practice humility.

I end this column with words from the good book: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” — Proverbs 11:2.

 

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