self-deprecation: a national pastime
In a society where we all look in the mirror and are expected to find flaws, where old is being replaced constantly by new, you have to wonder if anything is good enough —or anyone. So much of this devaluation has crept into society that it is no wonder why people feel such low worth, either about themselves or their possessions. And this is where the tea bag tag wisdom comes in: as people made in the image of Hashem, we don’t get the right to slight ourselves and devalue what is precious.
Humility has two ways in which it can display itself when it is out of balance. On one end of the spectrum, it is self-deprecation and groveling behavior. At the opposite end, dysfunctional humility appears as an ego out of control and lack of concern for others. We are all familiar with people who can’t tell or show us enough about themselves. While that ilk seems grossly wrong, the self-deprecating type is just as dangerous and unfavorable, more than one might think. It might appear that the damage is being done only to the person who is slighting oneself. This is not only untrue, but is the tip of the iceberg as far as damage goes.
Our Sages have warned us that not only is it forbidden to speak lashon hara (evil speech) about others, but about ourselves as well. When we engage in abusive speech about ourselves, we are pulled down not only in our own eyes but the eyes of others too. We essentially negate our potential, our current goodness, and our ability to affect the world through this negative speech. Some would consider this humility, but it isn’t: it is abusive and a chilul Hashem. What gain is there in cutting oneself down? What merit is there in dashing yourself, an integral part of Hashem’s precious creation? This false humility is not only difficult to deal with or respond to when someone displays it, but it negates one’s own current beautiful abilities, talents and gifts.
not more, not less
While I am not advocating haughtiness or arrogance, what I am standing up for is better representation of who we truly are. Being properly informed about what you are and what you aren’t helps you to act appropriately. If you are an office manager, you don’t have to apologize for not being a rocket scientist. And if you are a rocket scientist, you don’t have to apologize for not being a chef. You abide in what you are today, knowing that tomorrow you will continue to grow, change and become something more, in whatever capacity, than you are today. I am by no means handing out excuses to slouch off and not participate in activities of spiritual, intellectual and personal improvement; on the contrary, I am campaigning that you love yourself for who you are now and what you have the ability to become. Don’t apologize for yourself for what you are not, and don’t lower yourself (in your eyes and others) because you haven’t reached the potential yet for which you are hoping and longing. Keep reaching higher, enjoy the rung you are on at this moment, and allow your gifts and talents to shine today. Detox your spirit through proper humility and allow all that you are to be a benefit to others.
“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” –Tehillim 139:14, NASB