Examine Your Life
Question 51: What’s the difference between self-esteem and haughtiness?

   Rabbi Schwartz :
The main difference hinges on our ability to show and express deep gratitude. A person with self-esteem is grateful for everything he has; a haughty person takes it all for granted.

The person with self-esteem prizes the talents and abilities the heavens grant him. He takes no credit for his genius. Rather, he looks at it as a special gift, a privilege he needs to pay for. He knows that his ability places an important responsibility on his shoulders, and he must justify the trust the heavens invest in him. So, he works hard, learns and thinks hard to clarify his duty, his special task in this world. This clarity in turn, leads him (a) to identify his areas of strength, (b) plan out his life-path, and (c) perform with confidence and authority. Thus, with gratitude, his life soars upwards in the best possible way.

The haughty person, on the other hand, assumes that his talents and strengths are no more than what the world owes him, and he may use or squander them as he pleases. At the same time he feels that since he is superior to others, all must bow down to him, showing him only admiration and love. So he constantly looks and waits for recognition and applause – recognition and applause that never come. This leads him to suffering and disappointment.

Moreover, since he believes he is higher than others, he must endure loneliness. He lives in the beyond - beyond the reality of Hashem and his fellowman - and this pushes him along a lonely path. Ultimately then, his lack of gratitude isolates him from the beauty and joy of this world.

There is a little haughtiness in each of us. To uproot this, we must cultivate gratitude, looking carefully to praise and thank our Creator for all we have. At the same time, we must express appreciation and love to the people who make up our lives. Only when true thanks well up from the depths and meditations of our heart, may we learn to embrace our lives fully and fly them to the highest of heavens.

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