“Have more than thou showest; Speak less than thou knowest,” wrote Shakespeare in King Lear.
First, I’m all about inconspicuous consumption. I like having nice things, but I just don’t go around showing them off. Why make myself a more tempting target? Why cause envy on purpose? (Not that I’m wealthy by most definitions, but someone always has less, and tremendous inequity exists.) This isn’t limited to possessions; I tend to avoid flaunting or bragging about skills and abilities, which are much more valuable than stuff.
Second, I learn so much more with my mouth shut and my ears and eyes open! I’ve been working on repairing a house that’s a little rundown from being empty. Mostly I’ve hired experts, and even trying to help them as much as I could, the most I can usually do is fetch tools or help tote. I’ve been able to learn so much just by watching and listening and asking lots of questions! Having closely watched one doorknob or screen door repaired, I can do the rest myself… because I was busy learning instead of pretending knowledge that I lacked. People who think they know everything… don’t. Much better to stay open-minded.
So this is really about modesty, but not false modesty. I know I have skills, abilities, a few possessions, and knowledge. At the same time, there are lots of good reasons not to go around flaunting any of those. The wisdom in the Bard’s quote is about competence without overinflated ego, and our culture could really use it.