Like so many things in life, self-esteem needs to be balanced. The balance is between humility and pride. The following is attributed to Rabbi Simcha Bunim, one of the leaders of Hasidic Judaism in Poland in the late 1700s and early 1800s:
Everyone must have two pockets so that he can reach into one or the other according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words, “For my sake was the world created,” and in his left pocket, “I am dust and ashes” (quoted in The Spirituality of Imperfection, p. 60).
Indeed, there is something magnificent about every individual. No one will ever be exactly like you or have just your combination of gifts. To you and to us all God gave the earth, saying,
Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food (Gen 1:28-29).
We have exhibited this mastery both as individuals and communally. Ours are science, learning, poetry, philosophy, art, law, technology, libraries, and great universities. We have built cities and civilizations. We’ve even been to the moon and back. No animal species—not even the highest primates—demonstrates anything even close to the qualities we have or has done anything that compares with what we have done. We have spiritual souls and rational minds. There is something glorious about the human person.
Yet we must also remember that we are but dust and ashes. We are contingent beings who depend on God for everything. Every beat of our heart, every fiber of our being, must be caused and sustained by Him. Scripture says,
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more (Psalm 103:13-16).
Our glory is a humble, derived, reflected one. Whatever spark of glory we have it is but a spark; it is from God, whose glory is unsurpassable.
Remember well your glory, but also your neediness and contingency. Whatever your gifts (and you do have them) remember that they are from God and are often granted through others.
Yes, two pockets: one for esteem, the other for humility.
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