The Paradox of Being Small

October 6, 2016
Reading time: 2 minutes


Bon Iver artist Justin Vernon recently shared a conversation that he and Kanye West had about the word humble. I know, Kanye and humble go together like bare feet and tacks or peanut butter and olives. The conversation centered around Justin having a reputation for being a humble guy and Kanye, well, not so much. In their friendly discussion about the merits of humbleness Kanye asked Justin if he had ever looked up the word ‘humble’. He hadn’t and neither had I. Here’s the definition:



1. having or showing a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.

2. of low social, administrative, or political rank.


Hmmmmm, well that’s not what I thought it meant, nor is it a kabbalistic approach to life. While Justin and Kanye were quibbling over semantics (and Kanye was correct here) Justin is much closer to the mark spiritually.


The Zohar, verse 21 of Chayei Sarah explains that The Creator delights in those who transcend pride and self-interest, raising them in stature, whereas He diminishes those who inflate themselves with self-importance and vanity. Greatness in the world above is attained by behaving with humility and selflessness here in the physical realm. 


Kabbalistically, he who is small is great.


But wait! Being small in our lives can lead to a myriad of detrimental behaviors and outcomes. For instance, in a relationship a partner that always defers to the other will doubtlessly find themselves voiceless and unhappy. An employee who doesn’t take the credit for a job well done may be overlooked for promotion or pay raises. Just the very thought that in the big scheme of things, we aren’t that important, is demotivating to the extreme.


So what is the difference between being small spiritually versus these detrimental examples of being small?


English is failing us in this week’s post. There is no English word that I can find that means what I thought humble meant! Nor is there a better word choice for distinguishing between belittling ourselves (small) and the spiritual approach to being small which is completely different.


Here are the two ways that we make ourselves small:

1. Making ourselves less in order to make someone else more comfortable.

2. Spiritually understanding that all of our gifts and talents and blessings are from the Creator. Spiritual smallness is a perspective shift.


And that was the crux of the Justin/Kanye conversation. They were both right.


To be small is bad! To be small is great!


To be small in a way to please others is a great disservice not only to yourself but others, too. Michael Berg speaks frequently about how little we understand of our own potential and greatness. Not grasping this truth and not actively working to reveal your greatness is the greatest disservice of all.


Next time you find yourself hiding or trying to be small, stop and ask yourself why. Everyone, but women particularly, can fall into this trap of making ourselves small so as not to come across as:




Know it all



And on and on.


But the stakes are high. Your greatness awaits. And ultimately, what’s more uncomfortable, the unfavorable judgment of others or the sadness of misspent potential?



Thought Into Action

Where are you playing it small in your life? Where could you be a little smaller (spiritually).


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