The Gates of Humility Open

How can we let our accomplishments speak for themselves? How can we not regard ourselves as more special than anyone else?

“Let a person be humble in Torah and in doing good works. Let each of us be humble with our parents, our teacher, our partner, our children, our family, our friends — near and far — and let us be humble even with our casual encounter in the marketplace. Let us be humble so we can let our deeds speak for themselves and so we can become beloved to our God and useful on earth.”
-Tanna d’vei Eliyahu

Greatness and humility, in the Jewish tradition, are not incompatible. They complement one another. The greater the person, the more humble he or she is expected to be and is likely to be. As the Torah teaches, Moses was very humble, more so than all others on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).

The Jewish value of humility does not mean having an absence of self-esteem. Some level of pride is necessary for a healthy soul and is why our tradition also teaches that we are created in God’s image. Being humble doesn’t mean being “nobody;” it means being no more of a “somebody” than is appropriate. How do we find this fine line? When do we restrain ourselves and when do we speak up? How can we create space for others to participate so that we may learn from the wisdom they too have to share?

Hold the door open for someone today. Allow another a place ahead of you in your traffic lane. Think twice before sending an email. While making eye contact, say thank you to the cashier after your purchase. If you tend to be the first to respond in a conversation or meeting, wait until two others have contributed before chiming in. If you tend to wait to hear what others have to say, be one of the first to share your perspective. The same can be said for where you position yourself in a meeting (near the front or back of the room).