Overdosing on Humility

People uphold humility like its the most laudable of virtues.  I think its overrated.  I’ve seen people feign humility to the point that it’s sickening.  Some people, in an attempt to appear humble will take no credit for anything good they do, and I believe this is wrong.  If they do something good, they refuse the acknowledgement and say, “no, it’s the LORD.”  It gives a false sense of humility and to be honest, kind of sickens me. It reminds me of a cup of coffee when I accidentally put too much Sweet N Low in it.  One packet is fine.  It sweetens my coffee just enough.  Once in a while, when I’m not paying attention, I’ve put a second packet in, and it’s too sweet to drink.  I wind up dumping the whole thing.  That’s what humility is like.

Humility is an important characteristic in life, but its meant to be like a spice or sweetener.  While it’s a good thing meant to sweeten our actions, it was not meant to be a stand alone ingredient, but something that becomes part of the “mix” of our lives.  We are supposed to be helpful to others, and kind to others.  Humility can be part of the mix.  If we do things with a humble attitude, those things have a good feel to them.  If we over do it, it becomes overly sweetened, and people feel like spitting it out.

I’ve seen people let themselves be treated like doormats in an attempt to act with humility. In the end, they usually resent it but think that’s what they were supposed to do.  I don’t buy it.  Loving God doesn’t mean letting everyone and his brother wipe their feet on you and treat you like crap.  Loving God means treating people with kindness and decency, reckoning your actions as having done them as an offering to God, yet helping his children.       Having done so leaves you feeling good, and blesses the other person.  Acting as if you are a worm doesn’t bless anyone.

The Torah’s commands teach us to treat one another with mutual respect.  To do so presumes we have self-respect as well.  If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will respect you, and you won’t feel very good about yourself either.  When people over do it with humility, people don’t take you as genuine.  It comes across as fake.  We have a right to feel good about ourselves.  That’s how God set it up.

I’ve seen people act with good and kind intentions, yet others turned on them and attacked them verbally, trying to take advantage of their kindness.  When they were attacked, they just accepted it.  They felt they needed to “turn the other cheek.”  While there is an appropriate time for turning your cheek, there is a fine line between being humble and enabling the other person’s bad behavior.  For many years I let people take advantage of my kindness and I was wounded over and over by them.  I reached the point where I realized they were no better for my allowing their bad behavior, and I was no better for it either.  When I stopped letting people treat me badly, and called them to account for their behavior, sometimes they backed off and changed their behavior.  Other times they didn’t, but in either case, I felt better for it, and was able to receive the one thing you get for doing the right thing, the feeling that I had done good.  Feigned humility robs you of that, and its wrong.

I could find fault with the people who expressed their bad behavior, but the reality is, I let them do it.  No longer.   One packet of Sweet N Low is enough.  Two, is too much.  Overdosing is never a good thing.

 

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6 thoughts on “Overdosing on Humility

  1. Rabbi Michael,
    Thank you for the wisdom exhibited in the writing of this message. Many of us can use the Reminder that it does not represent G-d well when in our lives when we consistently roll over and play dead!

  2. You say we have a right to feel good about ourselves.

    How many unspeakably terrible things must one’s baggage from the past contain in order to nnegate that? In a situation where those things severely harmed others, and cannot be undone or even partially mitigated, and in which forgiveness is not forthcoming, what say you? How can such a person possibly feel good about himself? Think, for example, of a rapist, a child molester, or even one of the Nazis who murdered our people.

    I’m not trying to be argumentative here, but I just wonder where the limits might be.

    Dave

    • Good point Dave. I didn’t mean to insinuate that feeling good about ourselves is an inalienable right. I was attempting to say that we have a right to feel good about ourselves for the good things we actually do. I don’t think people who committed such atrocities as you listed above can ever make up for what they have done. When people do such things, their consciences are “seared,” and only God can judge their hearts. Such people usually find a way of justifying themselves so they can live with themselves.

      Here I was not talking about guilt, but when people do the right thing. When someone does something good for someone, they do have the right to feel good about it.

      • OK, I understand what you meant.

        But, since I got sidetracked onto guilt, now suppose the guilty person is truly repentant for what he has done. We agree the damage cannot be undone. Now here we have a person who is truly repentant, but the victim(s) has clearly shown there is not and will never be any forgiveness. I don’t see that this person’s conscience is seared. In fact, he repents and asks forgiveness. I understand God will and does forgive, but when the victim will not or cannot forgive, how does the perpetrator get right with his own self?

      • Interesting question Dave… In my opinion, if a person is wronged, and the perpetrator asks forgiveness, we are required to forgive, because of God’s command to do so. Forgiveness means you no longer hold the infraction against them.. It doesn’t mean things go back to the way they were before. It doesn’t mean you pretend it didn’t happen. I can forgive over and over, but does that mean I have to assume they will act any differently in the future? It can happen, but trust is earned. If the perpetrator has really repented and made good faith efforts to make restitution and do the right thing, Their conscience is clean, at least until the victim can come to turns with it and there be full, real restoration, but that takes time. God forgives, but people are more difficult. It depends on the individual, and the circumstances. A rape victim may find it hard to just forgive. Every situation is different.

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