His Comment Has Irritated Me for Months

I often talk about the power of saying, “How can I help?” But, several months ago, a man came to me after a talk and said, “Have you ever thought about asking, ‘How may I help?’”

His comment irritates me to this day. I haven’t adopted his suggestion.

“May I,” is asking permission and I don’t like asking permission.

humility is always aspiration


The innocent word, “may,” reminds me of the subtleties of arrogance.

Humility is always aspiration.

You haven’t mastered humility and you never will. To think otherwise is arrogant.

I prefer giving help to receiving it. “How can I help,” may be bad grammar, but it protects, even feeds, arrogance. The one giving help is superior to the one receiving it, at least in my un-humble thinking.

The act of helping makes arrogant leaders feel superior.

Isn’t it odd that an act of humility may be an expression of arrogance?

Control and ability:

“How may I help,” gives control to the person being helped.

When I have something you don’t have – knowledge, power, authority, skill, or resources – I feel superior and in control. The little word, “may” changes all that.

“How can I help,” puts focus on a helpers competence.

Servant leadership:

Humility is the spirit of servant leadership.

Without humility, servant leadership is self-centered, disingenuous, disrespectful, and manipulative.


A life of impact requires helping others.

You want to give help and rightly so. But, the dark side of giving help is superiority.

Continue helping, but realize humility only answers arrogance. It never eliminates it. Perhaps using “may” is one small step on the journey toward humility.

Humility is always being learned but never achieved.

What prevents leaders from embracing humility?

How are you embracing humility on your leadership journey?

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