Categorized | Mantell_Michael

Arrogant? Here’s how to become humble

By Michael Mantell, PhD

Dr. Michael Mantell

Dr. Michael Mantell

SAN DIEGO — Of course, those who really need this article probably won’t read it.  That’s the way arrogance works.  It makes you feel that you are better than the next person, that you certainly don’t need to change, and besides, no one is really smart enough to teach you anything.  In fact, among the “superstars of haughtiness”, this character trait leaves you feeling that there are no other persons.  Only you.

You know the words your friends use to describe you.  Conceited, imperious, cocky, pompous, egotistical, self-important, presumptuous, and self-absorbed.  Ouch, those hurt, right?

Yet, you also know the opposite of arrogance is humility.  Modest, humble, unpretentious and unassuming — these are some words that best describe a person who is humble.  Yet, these words may leave you feeling a bit uncomfortable.  After all, the last thing an arrogant person wants to feel is submissive, right?  Not you, big guy.

So settle down, open your mind and learn a few things.  First, humility is not meek reluctance to speak up or be assertive.  A humble person does not have low self-esteem.  Humble people do not slouch around passively in this world.  Humble people are objective about their abilities in relation to others.  If they are leaders, they lead.  If not, they defer.  They always know where they stand.

What’s more grating than an arrogant lawyer who knows more medicine than the doctor, or an arrogant doctor who knows more than the accountant, or everyone who knows more than the psychologist?

Remember your ancestor Moses?  “The most humble person who ever lived,” is what the Torah tells us about this leader, warrior, statesman, and the only person to ever come “face to face” with G-d.  Not a bad resume for a humble person.

Someone said that humility, according to Jewish sources, is defined as, “living with the reality that nothing matters except doing the right thing.”  Not a bad definition, if you ask me.

Imagine living in a way such that you are not dependant on the opinion of others.  The humble person puts aside his/her concern with being popular, sets aside his/her narcissistic ego needs, and focuses on doing right.  The arrogant person doesn’t typically concern himself/herself with right or wrong – only suiting his or her own ego gratification is what counts, no matter who gets embarrassed, lied to or stolen from in the process.

Said more simply, arrogant people believe only they count.  Humble people believe that what is greater than them is what counts.

Here are some tools, albeit ones you may not necessarily like, but they will work.  Like some medicine, the taste may be bad, but the effect seems miraculous.  First, a story.

There was once a man, Rabbi Simcha Bunim who carried two slips of paper with him at all times.  One piece could always be found in his right pocket and one similarly could always be found in his left pocket.  On one piece was written the famous Talmudic statement, “The entire world was created just for me.”  On the other was written the words of Abraham found in the Torah, “I am but dust and ashes.”

Why did this rabbi carry these two pieces of paper with their respective inscriptions with him wherever he went?  It seems that in this way the rabbi carried with him a constant reminder to help him overcome arrogance.  These words helped him remember that there are times to step forward, and times to step back.  There are times to speak up and times to let someone else who has more expertise speak up.  There are times when he was correct and times when he was incorrect.

Write these words down and start carrying them.  Just don’t forget to read them.

Next, getting yourself on a higher spiritual plane will help you become more humble as well.  You see, the closer you become to G-d, the more you recognize how insecure every human’s position really is.  You also begin to understand who is really in control and who is really eternal– and it’s certainly not you.

Arrogant people push G-d out of their picture.  There is no room for G-d if you feel you are always right.  That’s why the Talmud likens arrogance to idol worship – each pushes G-d farther and farther away.  Moses knew his place before G-d.  Arrogant people just push Him away.

So you are armed with your two slips of paper and you are becoming somewhat more spiritual.  Now, the next thing to do is when you wake up tomorrow morning join your fellow Jews throughout the world who, upon waking every day, recite the following words, “Mode ani l’fonecha, melech chai v’kayom, shehechezarto bi nishmosi b’chemlo — rabo emunosecho,” which mean, “I gratefully thank You, living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion – abundant is Your faithfulness.”  This will help remind you, before you even get out of bed in the morning, that there is Someone greater than you.  You start each day with the reminder that you stand before your Creator.

Starting to feel more relaxed?  Calmer? Like maybe you don’t have to have all the answers?

If not, read obituaries every day for a month and while you are at it, also read a few eulogies.  That should give you some perspective on life.  How do you want to be remembered?

Try not responding to arguments.  Instead, remind yourself that you are attempting to change a character trait.  It may be harder to change a character trait then memorizing the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, but hey, you can do it, right?  Just use humility to rise above it.  Hover in your new-found helicopter called humility.

Find a friend, a mentor or a therapist to discuss your inner word of thought and emotion.  In the course of articulating your inner thoughts and sharing them with someone who cares, you will likely come to hear your own faults and be less likely to remain haughty.  Everyone has aspects of his inner life that he might tend to ignore or put off dealing with.  You must come to see your own faults clearly, however, if you are to become easier to live with.

Finally another story, from, of course, another psychologically wise and insightful person.  “When I get to heaven, they’ll ask me, ‘why didn’t you learn more Torah?’ And I’ll tell them that I’m slow witted.  Then they’ll ask me, ‘why didn’t you do more kindness for others?’  And I’ll tell them that I’m physically weak.  Then they’ll ask me, ‘why didn’t you give more charity?’  And I’ll tell them that I didn’t have enough money.  But then they’ll ask me, ‘if you were so stupid, weak and poor, why were you so arrogant?’  And for that, I won’t have an answer.

Now you have some answers and some tools to overcome this destructive trait of arrogance.  Go for it.  You can do it.

Dr Michael Mantell, based in San Diego, provides coaching to business leaders, athletes, individuals and families to reach breakthrough levels of success and significance in their professional and personal lives. Mantell may be contacted via [email protected]  Comments intended for publication in the space below must be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the U.S.)













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