How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

2-½ minutes to read

Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bo – Exodus 10:1-13:16

Back during the first week of 2013, I injured my back, got bronchitis, dropped and broke my computer, and rear-ended another driver. Like other times when everything went haywire, I started wondering what G-d wanted from me? If He would let up I could get back on track. Then it hit me. I had become Pharaoh in Parshas Bo:

So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh and said to him: ‘So said the Lord, G-d of the Hebrews, for how much longer will you refuse to be humbled before Me?’ (Shemos/Exodus 10:3).

You’ll Absolutely Reject This Message from Me

This Sabbath’s parsha begins with the final three plagues that convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites leave Egypt. G-d makes Nissan the first month of the year. He commands the Children of Israel to perform the Pesach, the Passover Offering.

Then, the Almighty brings the Exodus.

The parsha ends with the mitzvahs of consecrating first-born animals, redeeming a first-born son, and tefilin.

Arrogance Is the Root of Most Evil

Come with me on a tour of the wreckage of Egypt. Pharaoh and his people lived through:

  1. All their water turning into blood.
  2. Frogs swarming their homes, even in their bread.
  3. Lice infesting their bodies.
  4. Hoards of wild beasts overrunning their land.
  5. Pestilence killing their livestock.
  6. Agonizing boils all over their bodies.
  7. Hail devastating their orchards and crops.

This group of catastrophes makes the worst day I’ve ever had seem outstanding. So it seems inconceivable that Pharaoh remained stubborn.  Only one force in nature could do it. Arrogance. Pharaoh refused to humble himself.

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Letting the Israelites go out into the desert meant submitting to G-d’s will. This takes humility. Time and again Pharaoh remained arrogant. All he had to do was say go and stand by his decision. Instead, his vanity destroyed his people and himself.

Use Humility to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Arrogance takes many forms including:

  • Power trips
  • Rude behavior
  • Brooding about minor insults
  • Know it all attitude
  • Refusing to adapt

You’ve met people who suffer for their arrogance. They must retaliate for even the slightest indignity. By contrast, someone who has internalized humility treats insults like water on a duck’s back. They roll off unnoticed.

You may have a friend or colleague who insists on winning every disagreement. He rarely if ever apologizes for giving offense. The humble person asks forgiveness even for an unintended slight or wrong. Who has the better life?

When you accept inappropriate behavior or limits you’re saying:

  • I’m so smart (or stupid) no one can teach me anything.
  • I’m perfect the way I am.

A modest person recognizes his shortcomings and seeks out ways to overcome them. False modesty is a form of arrogance. It denies the inherent ability of every human being to change.

Alan Axelrod’s biography on General George Patton relates an incident when Patton was a young 2nd Lieutenant. He used the word damn to curse a soldier who had not done a job properly. A short while later he thought better of it. He gathered all the people who might have heard the curse and apologized to the soldier. This was the first of many instances for which he won the respect and loyalty of his men.

Patton voluntarily, publicly, and sincerely apologized for the infamous slapping incidents. Because he believed in G-d, Patton worked all his life to restrain his arrogance.

Arrogance closes you off from solutions to the challenges you face. It destroys relationships. But I have good news for you. If you’ve read this far you met my arrogance challenge. Some people will react to the headline by saying, “You’re right. I’m not even going to read it.” You took the road of learning and growth. Next time you confront a challenge, you won’t sabotage yourself. You know the road of learning and growth is open to you.

Question – What techniques do you suggest for curbing arrogance?

You can leave a comment on this question or ask another question below


Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.

Do you have a question about the Old Testament? Ask it here and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!

© , Kevin S. Bemel, All Rights Reserved

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