Last week’s stretch of the week was: Recognize a gift that you have to give to others, and thank HaShem for giving you that ability.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Self-respect is vital to a person’s growth, while arrogance is wrong and distasteful. Very often, the two are confused. What is the underlying difference between the two? A person with self-respect takes pride in knowing his own value and worth, while the arrogant person takes pride only in the feeling that he is better than anyone else.
The arrogant person is living with sheker, because his thought process runs contrary to the Torah; HaShem does not want us to be haughty. HaShem does not measure us by our friends’ performances. In addition, his belief that he is better than everyone else is not true. What makes him better? If he possesses a higher IQ, he is not a better person because of his God-given intelligence. And, if he deems himself more righteous than those around him, he is clearly lacking the most basic qualities needed for righteousness, which is humility.
Let us think how an arrogant person would honestly answer these four questions:
1) Are you able to admit your faults?
2) Are you comfortable asking advice or seeking help from someone younger than yourself?
3) Are you able to praise the virtues of others?
4) Do you take criticism well?
The arrogant person will most likely answer these questions in the negative. Why does he struggle with these issues? The answer is that deep down he is lacking in self-respect. How can he be convinced that he is superior to all his peers? He must exaggerate his strengths and deny his shortcomings, and put down others in order to keep himself on top. He is like a hot air balloon, with little substance or reality behind his inflated ego. With the poke of a needle, he is deflated. He does not derive his self-worth from understanding the greatness of a Jew or other healthy places. His feelings are not connected to his avodas HaShem. He haughtily takes credit for himself, disconnected from any spiritual purpose.
Someone who struggles with his self-esteem will struggle to answer in the affirmative to the four questions as well. It is very hard for him to swallow the success of others, for this further opens his painful wound of insecurity. Can we consider this person humble? Humility is about leading a life that solely revolves around service of HaShem, without any interest in self-gratification.
Only when one has proper self-respect will he be secure enough not to need the honor and respect of others. One who does not feel his sense of kavod thinks, “What is the difference how I behave? What am I worth anyway?” Dovid HaMelech motivated himself each morning by saying, “Awake, my soul (ch'vodi), awake” (Tehillim 57:9). The body wants to rest; the neshama wants to get up and accomplish.
(Reproduced from Run After the Right Kavod by Rabbi Moshe Don Kestenbaum, with permission of the author and copyright holders, Israel Bookshop Publications).
Story: (based on a true story)
I walked quietly into my morning meeting with mixed feelings. Today was our first meeting with the new head of the marketing department. On the one hand, I had some ideas I wanted to suggest that I hoped Ms. Safier would like. On the other hand, I’d been with the company for almost twenty years with the same boss. Who knows what changes were about to come?
Ms. Safier looked about as old as my newly married daughter, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt. Even if she was still very young, she could have amassed a lot of knowledge in that time. If she had been hired by my company, she had to be good at what she did and on our wavelength, right? Within the first ten minutes she had already asked for all staff members to feel free to submit ideas and proposals to her, and I began to feel encouraged and positive.
By the end of the week, my proposal for a new strategy for one of our larger accounts was in her inbox. She thanked me for stepping up and told me she would give the proposal full consideration. Talk around the office told me that others had proposed ideas as well. I encouraged all of the others, confident that my idea would be put into practice soon. It had been developed based on my many years’ experience in the agency.
The next week’s meeting was an eye opener. Leah, a former intern who I had supervised last year who had just officially joined the company, was praised for her innovative approach to marketing the same account I had addressed, and a new plan was being formed. I was to co-chair a task group with her, combining my experience and her innovation to help develop the new campaign.
I have always prided myself as being a friendly, helpful person in the workplace, and I felt I had been a good supervisor to Leah. That day, I was not that person. I begged off on starting right away by pleading the need to complete other work with a deadline, and told her I would check if I could fit her in tomorrow but it might not work. The disappointment on her face was clear, but I could not handle working on this project right then.
I was upset that Ms. Safier had chosen a new intern’s ideas over mine and then made me work on it. I knew it seemed petty, but it was still true. I felt like there were only two ways to look at the situation: either Ms. Safier had picked the wrong idea and I had a boss who wasn’t good at her job, or she had picked the right one, and I wasn’t good enough at mine. After twenty years of hard work, I hoped I knew what I was doing, so I was leaning toward the first one, but I worried about the second. Was I washed up? Was it worth trying anymore, either way?
My work on the project was not my best, nor was my conduct as a person. It didn’t feel right, but I seemed to be stuck in it, until the new boss called me into her office one afternoon.
“I heard such wonderful things about your guidance and leadership,” she said. “Leah’s got great inspiration and creativity, but she needs help on the technical, nuts and bolts planning and roll-out side and I hoped you’d get inspired by her idea and guide the project’s structure. Is she not listening to you on that? Because I’m not seeing it.”
Ms. Safier looked at me straight on, and I knew that she knew I was slacking. My pride was keeping me from fulfilling my responsibilities to my company and client and from seeing good ideas in others. Didn’t I owe them, myself and HaShem better? Was this a one-time thing, or was it how I lived my life in general? Did I give my kids’ perspectives as much weight as I gave my own? Was I that mother or mother-in-law who always had to be right? Did I accept when someone pointed out a possible improvement or did I pull back from them?
A week later, I determined that I wasn’t horrible but I had a lot to learn. I’ve been working on being positive about the work project, and have begun to learn from some very astute aspects of Layala’s ideas. I’ve also been trying to remember to listen to others more and let in possibilities other than my instincts, especially from people who I think would know less than I do. It’s really hard, but I’m pushing forward. I don’t need to always be seen as the most knowledgeable; if HaShem’s happy with me, I’m all set. He put me in this world and in these specific settings to see the best in all His creations, and to grow.
Discussion Question Options:
In what ways are typical, everyday people prone to be arrogant?
How is overconfidence related to insecurity? How does it damage us and others?
What do we need to develop in order to see in ourselves potential for growth instead of weakness? How can we see others’ strengths as a way to help us grow instead of a threat?
Stretch of the Week:
Accept feedback or new ideas from another person as an opportunity to grow instead of viewing it as unwanted criticism.