Humility vs. Low Self-Concept

Thursday, 23 January, 2020 - 4:10 pm

What could possibly be wrong about toning down one’s ego or sense of self? In fact humility is one of the character traits about which Maimonides recommends to lean slightly off the middle course in direction of even more humility.

Yet, the Baal Shemtov states that there is a type of humility that is counter-productive and even destructive. He explains that it is possible for a person to see themselves as unworthy of accomplishing anything good. The result? The person does not accomplish anything good. Furthermore, they use their “unworthiness” as a license to an unrestricted lifestyle of “anything goes” because, “I am worthless anyway.”

Where’s the disconnect? Humility is defined as a person not being arrogant or boastful about what they can or have accomplished, because they recognize their talents and abilities as gifts from G-d. In fact, they think, had someone else been similarly gifted from above, they may have achieved much more. So while the individual acknowledges their capabilities, those capabilities do not cause them arrogance. This is the trait that Maimonides lauds and cautions us to pursue even to a slight extreme.

The Baal Shemtov, on the other hand, is speaking of someone with a low self-concept. Someone who lacks the self-confidence to aspire toward achievement and greatness. The trouble is, that when we do a self-examination of character, we cannot always separate the two because they both feel like humility. This is what the Baal Shemtov is warning about, do not confuse humility with a low self-concept. Do not use “humility” as an excuse not to stay in control of your actions and character. We must soar with accomplishment while remaining aware that those successes should not give us an ego boost.

This balance of character is the mark of a refined, yet accomplished person, who can contribute much to G-ds plan for our world.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

Comments on: Humility vs. Low Self-Concept
There are no comments.