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Why am I always so full of life and happy? It’s because I eat a lot of humble pie. #truth

Please allow me to tell you about one of my recipes….

I never knew I was smart until I was in law school. Yes, I had always made straight A’s; however, I firmly believed it was because of my hard work and not because of my genius IQ. My dear mother had hidden my actual IQ and standardized test scores from me most of my life. Heck, I didn’t even know I was a member of Mensa (Mom had applied for me). She wisely wanted to keep me humble. Up until that point, whenever I accidentally learned I had made a 99% or higher on a standardized test, she would always say: “Well, even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and again.” I always believed everyone else was smarter than me. When she finally revealed to me my certified IQ when I was complaining about my law school studies, I was gobsmacked! She said to me, “See, law school should be nothing for you. Stop complaining. Everyone else has a lot less brains to work with, and they become successful lawyers.”

Unfortunately, my mother’s words had the opposite effect on me. See, a lion never roars after a kill. But I, newly armed with this information, became quite cavalier. Instead of studying more, I studied less. Instead of graciously accepting this information and tucking away this weapon as a wise warrior would do, I used it to feed my ego. When it came time to take the Bar Exam, I studied less than anyone I knew. When I finished the Bar Exam more than an hour ahead of everyone else (over 1,500 people), I went back to my hotel room and took a nap, free from worry. When asked how I had done, I told everyone it was one of the easiest tests I had ever taken: “What was all the fuss about?”

The Bar Exam results are published online, and everyone can look up their results at the same time. My phone began ringing off the hook that day when the results came in: “How did you do? What did you score?” I arrogantly responded, “I haven’t looked yet. I’m sure I passed.” When I got around to looking, I couldn’t believe my eyes; I remember the exact moment I saw that I had failed.– I kept refreshing the results over and over thinking that I must have a problem with my eyes. Have you ever had one of those moments of painful clarity? Where your ears start buzzing and the room gets small, and you start sweating and feel a little dizzy? That happened to me. I learned that BIG lesson: Humble yourself or life will do it for you.

This isn’t the end of my story….

As you know, everyone knew that I had taken the Bar and was waiting for my results. Everyone knew when the results were released. And everyone was going to know that I had failed. My employers, my friends, my family, my former teachers, and especially the haters were all going to know.

I am going to tell you I love pie. All pie. Pie is one of my favorite things. But humble pie tastes like crap. I had to tell everyone about my failure.

Over the next few months, that was the first question everyone asked me when I saw them. I had to admit I failed. It sucked. It especially sucked when my “fake friends” and folks that pretended to be interested asked me with a gleam in their eye as if they already knew. I remember my Grandmother saying to me, “Don’t worry, JFK, Jr. had to take it several times. And see, he still has that gorgeous head of hair.”

Well, I decided to eat that humble pie with relish. I had to leave my job as my employment was contingent upon passing the Bar. I had to move home into my childhood bedroom at my mother’s house. I had to admit to at least one person a day for months that I had failed. I woke up every morning and went to my childhood library down the street, the Charles Webb Wesconnett Regional Library, and studied all day long, every day, for four months. Every night after eating a healthy brain-food dinner, so lovingly prepared by my mother, I would take long walks in the neighborhoods where I had grown up and reflect on my folly. During those long evening walks, I reflected on my carelessness. I found my sense of humor again. I had a t-shirt made that I wore that said, “I went to law school, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” I started conversations with strangers that looked sad by saying, “I just failed the Bar Exam and had to move back in with my mother. What’s your problem?” I started being my old, funny, irreverent self again. Some years later, I read that Mother Teresa said, “We learn humility through accepting humiliations cheerfully.” She is one wise lady.

Again, my story doesn’t end here…

I had to take a menial job while I studied to save up enough to pay to retake the Exam, to pay for Bar Review materials and to help my mother with feeding and housing me.

Two weeks before I was set to retake the Bar Exam, I was fooling around in my room with my teenage karaoke machine singing Linda Ronstadt’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.” (I found making fun of myself actually to be fun.) My mother entered and was holding a very thin envelope from The Florida Bar in the mail. I remember thinking, “OH, NO! What can they do to me NOW??” The envelope called to me like the box must have called to Pandora: desire and fear–equally. Mom sat down next to me and patted my little childhood bed and asked me to sit down. I sat down. “Open it,” she said. “I can’t,” I replied. “Carin Elaine, open up this envelope now.” I opened up the envelope with shaking arms and tears already streaming down my face. I read as far as: “The Florida Bar regrets to inform you”–and then I sort-of passed out and felt the room slide away. I came to with my Mom whooping, screaming, dancing, and knocking things over in my room exclaiming: “They made a mistake! They made a mistake! They made a mistake!”

“What mistake?” I croaked. My Mother drew herself up and holding the letter in front of her read: “The Florida Bar regrets to inform you that a mistake was made on your Bar Exam results. We sincerely regret any inconvenience this may have caused … blah, blah, blah.”

That was it. My nightmare was over. Or was it? We began calling everyone we knew and telling them a mistake had been made. The problem was, most folks found it hard to believe. I had to carry a copy of that letter around with me for several years to show people. Yet, I still heard whispers of doubt. Eventually, I stopped carrying around that letter; I decided I had nothing to prove to anyone. That is because it takes an enormous amount of strength, security, and confidence to be humble. That is when I learned my second lesson that good-old Mother Teresa also maintains, “If you are humble–nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace because you know what you are.”

This lesson has made me a better person. It has often reminded me not to judge others. It has shown me that empathy and Grace is the best style you can have. I still have many lessons to learn, and if you aren’t humble, you have to eat humble pie. But this is only because God loves you and humility is one of the best teachers. God disciplines those whom he loves. In the book of Hebrews, verse 12:5, we find these words, “For the Lord disciplines those whom He loves, and chastises every child whom He accepts.”

So I guess the moral of my story is, just eat the humble pie. I know it tastes like crap. But in being gracious and with a little bit of sweet tea, it sure goes down much smoother.

Thanks for reading and just remember–there are no calories in a humble pie!

Carin Maxey - Humble Pie

Carin Maxey’s blog posts are not legal advice and are meant for informational purposes only. If you require legal advice, please seek a licensed professional in your jurisdiction.