In general, Maimonides, like Aristotle, believed that emotional intelligence exists in striking a balance between excess and deficiency, too much and too little. Too much fear makes me a coward, too little makes me rash and foolhardy, taking unnecessary risks. The middle way is courage. There are, however, two exceptions, says Maimonides: pride and anger. Even a little pride (some Sages suggested “an eighth of an eighth”) is too much.

Above are the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. The center—something we seem to have lost these days—is truly the way to go. Yet, anger and pride are exceptions to the rule, as even in small measures they can be extremely harmful.

I would argue that anger, when used to defend our children or our safety, is justified and appropriate. However, when it causes us to lose any amount of control, or when it’s based around self-interest, it’s awful, destructive, and truly has no value—so much so that self-anger, I’d argue is based in pride.

Pride without humility, on the other hand, is incredibly destructive. It prevents us—or for that matter, as I like to refer to myself instead of us—from seeing my part in something. It prevents me from understanding when it’s time for me to step aside, when it’s time for me to ask for help, and when it’s time for me to see a different point of view.

On the other hand, if I don’t have pride in my work, in my accomplishments, and in who I am, I won’t be able to fulfill my gifts in this world. Conversely, if I am prideful, I will also not be able to.

Pride has led me to emotional responses, and interfered with my ability to see beyond myself. It’s caused me to not have patience with those I love, and has prevented me from attaining certain goals.

I have found that in other areas of my life, when I want to find the happy medium and live in the center, I get there by listening without judgement. I get there by truly paying attention to other points of view that are different than my own, so I can seek to change my mind. Of course, this can be incredibly scary to do, yet it is crucial for finding a balanced life.

The antidote I have found is humility. I define humility as, ‘I’m no greater than, nor less than anyone, and furthermore, my talents are gifts from above and are mine to share, not mine to be prideful about… it’s not like I earned them’.

My question is: how do you find humility when you are prideful? And, even when you aren’t prideful, what steps do you take to strengthen the humility muscle?

For myself, what I have begun doing is reminding myself that I am as gifted as each and every one of us, yet that doesn’t make me special. It actually makes me responsible for sharing my gifts, as they aren’t mine, they are gifts from the man upstairs.

This week, let’s share our gifts with others and let others share their gifts with us. Let’s recognize our greatness, however, let’s remember that we didn’t earn it, as it’s truly a gift from above.

Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love


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