Character Development

The Three Types of Haughtiness

Haughtiness can be divided into 3 main categories:

1.Haughtiness about our good deeds:

A person who always helps others or is generous feels: “I’m a giver and I’m kind; what would the poor do without me?”

Likewise a person learned in the ways of Torah learning may feel superior due to his vast Torah knowledge or his skills in analyzing, remembering and other strong cognitive skills he developed or was blessed with. “There’s no one as wise as me, I really remember things well, I really know how to dissect a topic into its parts and no one can grasp the profundity of what I’m saying.”

Someone devout may think: “I’m really stringent about how I do my mitzvoth” or “I learn really diligently”.

By women those who are gifted cooks think: “I’m a really good cook. When the 3rd temple is built I will the messiah himself will choose me as chef for the 3rd temple!

Some are physically tall and look down literally and emotionally at their peers and some are proud of their looks and think to themselves: “Since matriarch Sarah there was no one more beautiful!”

Those physically strong or athletic will show it off and ask their friends to do pushups or arm wrestling competitions with them. In playing soccer they may tell you: “Come let’s play and I’ll show you how it’s done!”

The solution for this type of haughtiness is simply to learn faith in G-d.

When a Jew learns that his wisdom, money, height, good looks or ability to cook or play soccer all are G-d’s gifts to him free of charge and unearned; even kicking a ball needs G-d’s help to do it…he will then become humble.

2.Haughtiness facing G-d:
The second type of haughtiness is while facing G-d and complaining why something didn’t work out. Why didn’t I get married yet? Or why did that business deal fall through? In other words he is really saying: “I don’t deserve this, there must be some mistake! I’m a righteous person, I’ve done a whole lot of mitzvoth and G-d mistakenly brought this mishap upon me. If I was running the world I would be fairer and I’d make a suitable match for myself.”
I met someone who was religious for 10 years and hadn’t yet found his match. He grew his side locks and a beard and he would learn Torah diligently. One day I met him on the street clean shaven he didn’t even have a kippah on his head. I was astounded and he read my bewildered face and answered: “If after 10 years that I became religious and learned in a yeshiva G-d still couldn’t find me my match then this is not for me.”
Obviously, who am I to judge him, I was never in his shoes? However his answer comes from the “I deserve better” paradigm which stems from haughtiness.
People are afflicted with pain, trials and tribulations. These are all tests to see if he accepts them with love and submission understanding that this is G-d’s decree and believing that G-d is just and true or if he will pull at the bit and fight against the troubles thinking he doesn’t deserve them and that
G-d is unjust. He fails to realize that compared to G-d, his outlook at life and his intelligence is severely limited.
This haughtiness causes a person suffering to be angry at G-d because he actually disagrees with G-d running the world because he feels he deserves better or more.
Once 3 Admorim (Chasidic Rabbis) sat together and discusses what they would do if they were G-d and had to run the world. The first one said: “I’d heal everyone and give money to all the poor.” The next one said: “I would bring peace between people around the whole world and I’d put happiness in people’s hearts!”
The 3rd one said: “I would not change a thing! I’m not smarter than G-d, I don’t have over 5,000 years of experience running the world like G-d has. I’m not more compassionate than G-d nor do I love people more than Him! If he decided that this is how the world must look then it must be the best thing possible right now, so that being the case, I wouldn’t change a thing!”
3.Haughtiness over others:

Imagine someone comes over to you for assistance but he really doesn’t have a clue about what you’re saying and his answers are way off. He behaves in a coarse manner and his speech is rowdy and not that clean. He tells you he was divorced 3 times and he needs money to buy food. You will on one hand feel bad for him and try to help him but on the other hand you will feel superior to him simply because you behave in a more civilized manner and you are happily married and financially stable…

You should just know that those thoughts are also a form of haughtiness! You may ask why and the answer is that by Moses it says he was the most humble of all men. Rashi explains that he was “low and accepting”. Low means like the low part of a wave, the trough meaning that Moses never felt himself above anyone else, he felt lower than them.

But you may ask: “But it’s true! I do more good things than this poor man who asked me for money does; does that not make me a better person?” The answer to this is twofold. One is circumstances and the other is effort. If you had the same parents he did and his life circumstances perhaps you would be even worse! If he had your circumstances maybe he’d do more good than you are presently doing! Secondly, a man isn’t necessarily measured by his accomplishments rather he is measured by the amount of effort he exerts so it’s quite possible that this coarse person standing in front of you is totally righteous using 100% of his strength to do the little good that you can see whereas you are using only 50% of your strength…

This haughtiness is pervasive, it’s everywhere in our lives! I’m smarter than my friends or my wife, I’m more righteous than my fellow Kollel colleagues, I’m the strongest guy in the class, I have better character traits than most people around me, I’m more considerate, I’m cleaner and more organized than my wife/ husband/ friends…

In short, if I was running the country the situation would be far better…

These haughty thoughts exist in almost all of us and working on ourselves to get this haughtiness out is difficult but possible. If the Creator wants us to try and get it out you must agree it’s possible… but you needn’t do it alone… He will help.


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