Values & Ethics - Through a Jewish Lens

Discussion Topics about Humility – Page 2

SELF-ESTEEM…

TORAH PORTION: MIKETZ

Self-EsteemWe naturally want to make life good for our children. We may be uncomfortable seeing them struggle with homework, and we give them a little more help than we should. Deep down we know that, when they complete the task themselves, they’ll feel much better about themselves and will have learned a lot more about the material and their abilities.

Joseph was abducted and sold by his brothers into slavery. Years later in this week’s Torah portion, when he has become viceroy to the King of Egypt and wields tremendous power, his brothers come to Egypt from Canaan to buy food for their families. As they enter to be interviewed by Joseph, he immediately recognizes his brothers, but they do not know him. Instead of immediately revealing himself or punishing them, he puts them through a series of tests. He gives them the opportunity to show that they had learned to look out for each other and put differences aside. He allows them to redeem themselves in his own eyes and in the eyes of their father Jacob.

The most important thing we give our children is life. The second most important gift we can give them is a healthy self-esteem to enable them to make the most of the life we gave them. Joseph chose the long route, the one that allowed the brothers to look at him, at their father, and at themselves once again. Sometimes we have to be willing to guide our children through a slow process instead of jumping in and fixing things for them, even if it’s difficult for us to watch. Perhaps that means pushing children to complete projects they have chosen or encouraging them to resolve a spat on their own. Give them opportunities to view themselves as successes.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the empowerment of knowing one’s abilities.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Give an example of something you think you are good at doing.
  • Give an example of something you know you could become better at doing.
  • What is the difference between self-esteem and inflated ego?
  • How do self-esteem and humbleness relate?

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics: Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

WHEN THE GREEN-EYED MONSTER VISITS…

TORAH PORTION: NASO

Naso1Jealousy is a powerful force.  Adults and children are both vulnerable to this feeling, but children are especially prone to being jealous of their friends: “He has the more expensive sneakers”, “She has straight hair”, “He’s taller than I am”, “She’s a faster runner”.  The litany continues ad infinitum.

In this week’s Torah portion a husband is jealous about his wife’s suspected infidelity.  The Torah goes to great lengths to set out an elaborate procedure aimed at allaying his jealousy.   In this way the Torah acknowledges what a destructive force jealousy can be.

To address this in our children, we must first become models for them.  Try to refrain from comparing oneself to one’s friends and neighbors.  Ask yourself: do we live within our means or are we trying to keep up with our neighbors?  In this very competitive society that we live in, people not only compare themselves with others, but they often compare their children’s accomplishments to those of their friends’ children.  No wonder that our children compare themselves to others!  If we ourselves refrain from engaging in this comparison game, when our children compare themselves to others, we can encourage them to focus on what they are and have, rather than what others are and have.  Rabbinic wisdom declares “Who is rich?  One who is happy with what he has.”

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about the feelings of jealousy and comparing themselves to others.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • What makes you jealous?
  • What do you think might help you to be less so?
  • Has jealousy ever prompted you to say or do something that you regret?
  • Have you ever tried to provoke jealousy in others?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

FINDING THE CORRECT BALANCE…

TORAH PORTION: YITRO

yitro3People will take greater notice of our actions than they will of our boasting about them. One of the most important things we can teach our children is not to think only about themselves.  Being sensitive to the feelings of others comes naturally to some, but most need guidance to develop this skill.  As parents, how we model this behavior is crucial.  Having a humble spirit may mean not being easily drawn into a defensive argument when criticized.

In this week’s Torah portion G-d delivers the Ten Commandments and Torah at Mt. Sinai, a small, low, non-descript mountain.  Stories (Midrash) explain why God did not choose other bigger, more beautiful and grander mountains all promoting themselves and expecting to be chosen.  In these stories, God deliberately chose Mt. Sinai, unimpressive and not expecting to be chosen, to show us the value of humility.

Humility in no way means low self-esteem.  According to Rabbi Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel,  we should conduct ourselves with humility, but at the same time consider ourselves to be  of high worth because of our good qualities.  Life is a difficult balance between maintaining humility and nurturing our self-interest and competitive impulses.  The ancient rabbis were much more concerned with overconfidence and arrogance than our being too accommodating to others.  An excellent test of being humble in spirit is the way we treat others of lesser abilities than ourselves. Do we treat them as inferior, or are we able to admire others for the strengths they have?

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about having the security to act with humility.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When you are feeling self-confidence and pride in your achievements, how do you maintain humility?
  • Is there a downside to being too humble?
  • Does humility make us more or less accepting of the little annoyances of life?

By Rabbi Dianne Cohler-Esses

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

SELF-DECEPTION…

TORAH PORTION: HA-AZINU

ha-azinuEvery so often we get caught, or catch ourselves, doing something wrong. Very often we come up with creative justifications for what we did. The person I snapped at was rude to me first. Or I stole a video because the store makes too much money anyway.

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses reminds us that when we do things that are wrong, we must focus on the imperfection in ourselves and not use twisted logic to find another source of blame. Actually, modern psychological studies show that all people think they are basically good, regardless of how bad their actions. That is because people judge themselves by their motives, not by their actions. Interestingly, early Rabbis said, “All of a person’s ways are right in their eyes.” (Proverbs 16:2)

There is no way to correct our bad actions if we do not see them as wrong. There are people in your life who have the ability to think straight: parents, teachers, coaches, friends, siblings, or grandparents. Look to those in your life who exemplify “untwisted” thinking and objectivity. They are the ones to look up to and try to learn from them.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about self-justification being a road to nowhere.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • Why is it “twisted” to blame someone else for your mistakes?
  • Suppose the other guy or girl really is wrong: why is it helpful to focus away from them and into yourself?
  • Think of two older people you know who are wise, mature, and model clarity of thought.

By Rabbi Moshe Becker

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.

FACING UP TO CONSEQUENCES…

TORAH PORTION: VA-ETCHANAN

va-etchananWe often do not think of the potential consequences before we take action.  Hopefully, we stop to think about the impact on our surroundings when we are making big decisions that require a lot of thought.  But in the moment when we react quickly or when a decision doesn’t seem as though it has far-reaching implications, it is unlikely that we are running through all possible scenarios in our minds.  So what happens when we are later faced with the consequences of those actions?

In this week’s Torah portion, we see Moses dealing with the consequences of his actions. The Israelites arrive at the promised land, and Moses only catches a glimpse of it before finding out that he will not be allowed to enter. A reason is because of something he did in a moment of frustration while traveling in the desert, many chapters back.

How do we act when we are confronted with our actions and asked to take responsibility for them, especially when we find ourselves surprised by the unintended consequences? It is easy to be defensive and full of excuses, explaining that we didn’t mean to hurt someone or to cause harm. However, regardless of our original intention, our challenge is to accept the fact that our actions brought about these consequences. There are times when apologies can begin to make things right, and there are times when, like Moses, we simply need to accept what results from our actions.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS about facing up to the consequences of their actions.

CONNECT TO THEIR LIVES:

  • When was a time you hurt someone and didn’t realize it?
  • How did you act when you found out?
  • Have you been hurt by someone who didn’t know?
  • Did you choose to tell the person, and if so, how?
  • How often do you think of the consequences before you do something?

Values & Ethics—Through a Jewish Lens is created by Fred and Joyce Claar to bring the wisdom of Judaism into family discussions.