Beit Midrash

  • Jewish Laws and Thoughts
  • Pathways in Personality Development
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in the memory of

Asher Ben Haim

22. Pride and Humility

One should not think that pride brings a person confidence and happiness, while humility causes a sense of meekness and sorrow. This is not true. In fact, the opposite is true. It is humility that brings true happiness, while pride brings sorrow.


Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed

One should not make the mistake of thinking that pride brings a person confidence and happiness, while humility causes a sense of meekness and sorrow. This is not true. In fact, the opposite is true. It is actually humility that brings true happiness, while pride brings sorrow.

An arrogant person places himself above others, considers himself superior, and wants others to honor him and admire his virtues. His standing in the eyes of other people is what matters to him; this is what he is sensitive to and what causes him tension. He is offended when others do not give him what he sees as his due respect. This insults and angers him and causes him to become embittered.

One who pursues honor is caught up in his own self-image - in his own eyes and in the eyes of others, and instead of occupying himself with positive and beneficial matters, he occupies himself with thoughts of how every act he performs can strengthen his image. What matters to him is not how to be good, but how to appear good.

Eventually, when the "balloon" bursts, he becomes frustrated and upset. There is no need to bring examples of famous personalities who became dependent upon publicity, and, when they stopped making the headlines, or did not receive the sort of publicity the wanted, experienced a crisis which led to depression, drugs, and alcohol, causing them to become a shadow of what they had had once been.

There are proud people who do not care what others think about them, who simply ignore everybody. Such a person considers himself smarter than everybody else. He is not willing to take others into consideration or to ask advice of others. His pride cuts him off, and even when he is aided by others, he is incapable of thanking them. The self-confidence he displays is not genuine, it is just a show.

"R' Alexandri said: Every man in whom there is haughtiness of spirit, will be disturbed by the slightest wind will." "R' Judah said in Rab's name: Whoever is boastful, if he is a Sage, his wisdom departs from him; if he is a prophet, his prophecy departs from him." This is not true of humility, which is the foundation of all other good traits.

Through humility a person merits Torah: "The words of the Torah endure only with him who is meek-minded." "It is not in heaven" - i.e., the Torah does not stay with one who has a haughtiness of spirit. Why did Judah merited kingship? Because of his humility. King Saul also merited kingship because of his humility.

Arrogance, haughtiness - these traits awaken resistance. They disturb others. Humility, on the other hand, awakens fondness, favor, pleasantness. A humble person does not compete with others. He does not wish to stand out, to try to be more than others. He is happy with his lot and thankful for everything he has.

A humble person is even made happy by the good fortune of others. Their virtues do not cause him discomfort, and therefore they have no second thoughts about assisting him, elevating him, granting him important positions, for he will accept the responsibility with humility, and will fulfill it for the sake of the general good - not for himself.

We find, then, that humility is not characterized by a sense of nothingness, despair, and sadness. A humble person recognizes his virtues, yet he does not attribute them to himself. He knows that God is the one who gives him the strength to do great things. The more virtues he acquires, the more humble he becomes, and he feels himself all the more obligated to thank God for all the good he has been given. Therefore, he is filled with the joy and strength which comes from trusting in God.

A proud person, on the other hand, attributes all greatness to himself, thus isolating himself. He does not feel as if it is God who gives him strength, and therefore he lacks confidence and is liable to fall. He does not have peace of mind, and his happiness is not true happiness.
Some of the translated talmudic sources in the above article might have been taken from, or based upon, Davka's Soncino Judaic Classics Library (CD-Rom).

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