Photo Credit: David Armano

Sincerity & Humility as Credibility

“I am not educated nor am I an expert in any particular field. But I am sincere and my sincerity is my credentials.” Malcolm X, (1925-1965)

I was listening to a speech on advocacy for youth the other day. Before beginning his presentation, the speaker shared some concerns he had related to his credibility in the academic sense. After looking at some of the credentials of others who were slated to speak that day, he said something to the effect of “you have this person: Ph.d, JD, or this one: LPC, Ph.D, Psy.D, and then there’s just me”.

Before deciding to come to the venue, he initially thought that many people in the particular setting we were in might view the other speakers as more interesting, and feared that his presentation might have a low turnout. He was pleasantly surprised at the fact that his fears were not realized.

The speaker then went on to say “but I know who I am, I have a passion for this work, and that passion is what has carried me through to give kids hope in my neighborhood”.

After relaying this, continued to share some of his own personal story as well as how his background connected him personally to the advocacy and organizing that he had chosen to dedicate his time to.

I know that his being there impacted me in a positive way, and judging by feedback from many others who were present, I am sure that they left the experience with something positive as well.

I took away a couple of things from this experience. The first is the value of personal power, and the second is the importance of understanding the value of reciprocity in relationships.

The Value of Personal Power

As a person who strives to be an advocate for social change in the area of education, I can definitely understand the necessity of pursuing higher education and acquiring the necessary skills to be able to create change in policy and program implementation: to be able to use evidence gained from research to highlight areas of need and make a case for the need for change, securing of funds, and other resources.

Indeed, these things are important. However, in considering this, I also do not want to neglect highlighting the importance of “Personal Power” as well.

Ever heard of the phrase “DOWHATYOULOVEWHATYOUDO”?  It means do what you love, and love what you do. I believe that each of us has the potential to do great work in whatever we choose if we can dedicate ourselves to the things we are passionate about.

A great deal of power can also be found in (wisely) sharing of personal experiences. Had the speaker been overcome by his perceived lack of credentials in one area, he would not have come to present, and I might not have been inspired to use this situation as an example for others.

Sometimes, making connections on a personal level can break ground and produce progress that may not have been accessible through presenting hard facts alone such as research findings or statistics.

Because I believe both are necessary, my challenge is to find ways to blend elements of pathos and logos so that I may be able to utilize the power that comes from utilizing the factual and rational and as well as the power that comes from sharing real life experiences in working toward social justice.

Humility and Reciprocity in Relationships

I believe that we are teachers and learners, and that relationships can be mutually beneficial. As I know that I have skills and experiences to offer, so do others with whom I come into contact with.

While I understand that I do not have all the answers, I also know that my experiences are valuable and can offer perspective as a part of the greater puzzle. With this in mind, I also value the experiences of others.

Realizing that we are teachers and learners, being open and willing to learn new information, and being able to appreciate the experiences of others can be helpful in building positive relationships.

During his presentation, the speaker noted that much of his success in establishing and maintaining positive relationships with the youth and families he served came from listening to them. Instead of approaching his clients as if he knew everything about them, he listened, and found a way to combine his knowledge with their experiences.

Working collaboratively in this manner enriched the families, and also impacted the speaker in a positive way that reinforced his passion for the work. Enrichment through education is important, but it is also important to remember the power that lies in investing time and energy into your passions.

For the speaker, sincerity was all he needed. He found that the people in the community he served came to value his relationship with them not because of who he was in terms of social status, but because they felt as if he cared for them.

For those families, his sincerity was the bridge that connected them to him. For them, that was their necessary prerequisite.


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins



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Written by

I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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