December 13

Decoding What “Poor in Spirit” Means | WT #31


As Christmas draws near, it presents time for reflection. Let’s reflect on being “poor in spirit,” and decode what it really means.

The reason I suggest this reflection is because to collaborate effectively, we must be poor in spirit!

Decoded: we must exercise humility, which is the ability to empty oneself of pride, and focus on what’s best for others.

For a long-time I was confused by what poor in spirit meant. For example, I thought you couldn’t be poor in spirit, or humble, if you were financially successful.

Today, I think differently. Humility has nothing to do with money.

While it’s true that many times you experience those poor or less fortunate as being humble, the people you serve while volunteering at a soup kitchen, financial success and humility are not mutually exclusive. Being poor in spirit is a spiritual state, not a material state.

It may be easier for the poor to practice humility because materialism or temporary things (money, power and reputation) does not tend to get in the way of their spirituality or what’s lasting – their relationships. I observe with some people who are financially successful that money, power and reputation can tend to come before what’s lasting – their relationships.

We all have our crosses to bear on the road to collaborating effectively. Many times these crosses have two sides. On one side, Saint Mother Teresa, is an example of living a life of poverty and being poor in spirit. On the other side, most of us know an example of someone who is financially successful and also poor in spirit. That person, who could drive any car they wanted and drives a modest SUV, takes times to listen to front line team members habitually, and elevates others with their words every chance they have, is humble.

I don’t know about you, but I could collaborate with either one of these of people.

Regardless of where we start, we all have to get to the same place as these people to collaborate effectively – we have to be poor in spirit.

About the author 

Darren Smith

Darren Smith is Co-Founder of the Authentic Leadership Institute. He is a native Texan and a graduate of Dallas Jesuit and Texas A&M University. Over the past 25 years, Darren has visited 35 countries and led 100 strategy programs. He and his wife have five children.


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