Gaining Self Confidence
The way we look at ourselves has a lot to do with how other people look at us. In this week's Torah portion, the Jewish people were all set to go and settle the beautiful land of Israel. But first they decided to send a few men in advance to check out the land and report back to them. The men they sent were great leaders, but when they got there, most of them lost their confidence and became afraid. When they returned to the people, they told them "Compared to the people already living there, we look like grasshoppers in our eyes and in their eyes." The Torah's message is that because they felt weak like grasshoppers, that's how the people living in the land looked at them too. After hearing the bad report, the Jewish people were afraid to go into the land, even though God had promised them it would be all right. This meant they had to spend 40 more years wandering through the desert before they finally made it.
In our story, a boy learns a lesson about self-confidence.
"A QUIET BOY"
Reuven was "the quiet boy." In fact, some of the kids in Reuven's class weren't even sure if he could talk at all!
Day after day, he would sit in class while Mr. Greenbaum, the teacher, would ask the kids questions and try to get everyone involved. But Reuven would just keep quiet, even when he knew the right answers.
"They'll probably just laugh at anything I have to say," he thought to himself.
Even though Reuven was strong and fairly athletic, when all the boys would get together and play ball during lunch break, Reuven would just sit by himself off to the side.
One day during the break, Mr. Greenbaum came over to Reuven. "Hey, why aren't you playing ball?" he asked with a friendly smile.
Reuven felt embarrassed. Looking down at the ground, he quietly answered, " I can't play as well as those guys. I'll probably just drop the ball."
The teacher looked out at the kids playing for a minute, then turned to Reuven and said, "Take a good look at the game. Do you see anyone else dropping the ball?"
Reuven shielded his eyes from the bright afternoon sun. He couldn't believe what he saw. It seemed like almost every few seconds someone would drop the ball or do something else wrong.
"Do you see what I see?" asked Mr. Greenbaum.
The teacher continued, "Even though most of these guys also make mistakes sometimes, they're still out there playing. And in class too, almost half the time when somebody answers one of my questions, he gets it wrong. But he keeps trying anyway."
Just then the bell rang to end the recess. Mr. Greenbaum put his hand on Reuven's shoulder as they walked back into the school building. "You're a good guy," the teacher said with a smile. "You're not perfect, but neither is anyone else. But if you keep hiding yourself, nobody will ever see who you are, and that would be a shame because you are someone special."
In class that afternoon, Reuven, "The Quiet Boy," began to speak up for the first time. And he and everyone else found out that even "The Quiet Boy" had something to say.
Q. Before Reuven had his talk with his teacher, how do you think he felt when he watched the other kids play ball?
A. He thought they could all play better than him. And he was afraid to join in.
Q. How about after the teacher spoke to Reuven and told him to look at the game? What changed?
A. Then he felt less afraid. He saw that a lot of kids didn't play so well, but they joined in anyway. He felt maybe it was okay for him to play also.
Q. What do you think someone with self-confidence would tell himself if he made a mistake?
A. He might say, "Oh well, better luck next time. Mistakes happen to everybody. It wasn't so bad, etc."
Q. What would someone without self-confidence say when he made a mistake?
A. Something like, "Oh no! I did it again! I'm really no good at this. Everybody's going to laugh, etc."
Q. How do you feel when you make a mistake? Do you ever think you have to be perfect?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What's the difference between being self-confident and being haughty or conceited?
A. A haughty person usually likes to put other people down. He tries to pretend he's perfect. But a self-confident person feels good about himself and other people. He realizes he's not perfect but he's a good person anyway.
Q. Can a person be humble and self-confident at the same time? How?
A. Yes. When we realize that our good qualities are a gift from God, we remain humble. But at the same time, we recognize the talents and strengths that we have.
Q. Do you think it's better to try and fail, or not to try?
A. It's better to try, and even if you fail, at least you had a chance to succeed. And even from failures you can learn things and grow.