Being Too Proud
The special Passover flatbread, Matzah, has the same ingredients as regular bread, except it's unleavened so it doesn't puff up and rise. One lesson we can learn from the matzah is to be humble and not puff ourselves up with false pride and negative self-importance. It's great to feel good about ourselves, as long as we don't let our self-importance cause us to expect people to honor us, and become angry or insulted if they don't.
In our story, a kid discovers that puffing up with self-importance isn't the way to happiness.
"BLOWING UP, GROWING UP"
Janet Kramer anxiously stuck her hand into the mailbox and pulled out the mail. There were a couple of catalogues, some bills and a free sample of toothpaste - but no invitation.
'Well,' she thought, miffed, 'This was the last day it could have arrived. I guess I really don't count for much with Wendy after all.'
Her next-door neighbor, Wendy Ellis, was having her gala Bat Mitzvah party that evening. It was the talk of the neighborhood and it seemed that everyone was invited - except for Janet.
She brought in the mail and then walked over to the neighborhood grocery store to buy a few things her mom had asked her to get. She was at the checkout counter and about to pay, when Wendy walked in with her sister.
"Oh, hi Janet." Wendy said with a smile.
The girl nodded back coolly.
"We're just getting some last minute stuff for the party tonight," Wendy said. "Will we see you there?"
Janet couldn't hold back. "I would think that if you really wanted to see me there, you would have bothered inviting me."
"Invite you? Of course I invited you," insisted Wendy.
Janet shook her head.
"Look, I even have the invitation list right here," Wendy said, pulling a piece of paper out of her bag.
She went over the list, once, twice, and then turned white. Janet's name wasn't on it.
"Wow Janet, I'm really sorry," Wendy said nervously. "It was a mistake. Please, you must come. It will mean so much to me!"
"Thanks." Janet smiled politely on the outside but on the inside she was burning up. 'Some nerve that kid has, not even caring enough to officially invite me, then inviting me at the last minute. Well, let her celebrate with the people whom she cared enough to invite and not me - I have my pride!' Janet thought to herself as she stomped out of the store.
That evening, Janet tried to block out the lively sounds of the music and people at the party going on next door. She could even smell the barbeque.
'Gee, maybe I should pop in,' she kept thinking. But each time these thoughts were cancelled out by the one that said, 'I'VE GOT MY PRIDE.'
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. It was her friend, Amy, holding a bouquet of balloons.
"Hey Jan, I see you didn't get to the party yet, it's really great. Wendy was asking for you. Is everything okay?"
"I didn't get a real invitation in the mail. Wendy said she forgot," Janet said.
"That's all? So what? These things happen all the time. Why should you miss a good party because of that?"
"Don't you think I have any pride?" Janet insisted.
But Amy shook her head. "Pride? I always felt pride meant acting in a way to be proud of - doing the right thing. It doesn't mean getting all insulted every time someone doesn't treat us the way we want them to. That's not pride, that's getting all puffed up with ourselves like... a balloon. Well anyway, I've gotta get home - here, at least have one of these," she said, handing Janet a balloon from her bouquet. "They're giving them out at the party." Amy smiled and walked out.
Janet looked at the pretty balloon and sighed. 'I would have a good time at the party and it would make Wendy happy... But, no... I have my pride!'
Janet was startled by the loud popping of the balloon. 'It must have been blown up too much...' Janet smiled to herself. Amy was right - she was also getting too blown up over the whole thing. So what if Wendy forgot to send her an invitation? Why should she let her blown-up pride ruin her whole evening and make Wendy feel bad?
She quickly changed into nicer clothes.
"Oh, Janet! I'm so happy you came," Wendy exclaimed as she ran up to greet her. Janet had a great time and had something really to be proud of - that she didn't let her puffed up sense of false pride get in her way doing what was right.
Q. How did Janet feel at first about going to Wendy's party?
A. She felt insulted Wendy had forgotten to invite her and her pride wouldn't let her go.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt like it was okay to go and to get all puffed up because of what happened was silly.
Q. What life lesson did Janet learn from what happened?
A. She had felt that pride meant she should act insulted when someone didn't treat her with enough honor, but she discovered that real pride had to do with doing the right thing and not with getting insulted or angry.
Q. Is there a time when it's right to get insulted?
A. If someone doesn't treat us right, it is normal to feel pain and is there is no reason not to take action to protect ourselves, but the puffed up feeling of being and acting insulted is a type of false pride we should try stay away from at all costs.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What is the difference between healthy self-esteem and false, puffed up pride?
A. Self-esteem is an inner attitude in which we recognize that our self worth does not depend on other's approval. False pride is the opposite, it is when we define ourselves in others eyes and demand of them that they sustain our feelings of self worth be giving us their honor and approval. If we truly respect ourselves, we will not be overly moved even if others don't treat us with the proper respect.
Q. What attitude do you think could help prevent us from puffing up with false pride and feeling insulted over things?
A. One powerful tool is to remember that nobody can say or do anything to us unless G-d allows them to and G-d only allows it if it will ultimately be for our best good. In fact, our sages and mystics teach that being insulted by someone and not responding angrily is one of the quickest and most effective ways to build character and achieve spiritual growth. While we shouldn't seek these experiences, if and when they happen we should seize the opportunity to use them to grow.
Spiritual exercise: This Passover, eat kosher-for-Passover matzah and as you eat it, try to tune into its lesson of becoming more humble and think of ways you can apply it in your life.