Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

How I stay humble

Here are some ideas that you might be able to use for yourself or could inspire you. I sometimes meet people who think that I’m really not humble. I found out that they project their feelings on me. They are never the humble people I could learn from to be even more humble.

My humble rabbi explained that being humble doesn’t mean that you think you’re a nobody. Rather, it means that you don’t use your excellence to get privileges. I remember once, that we needed to take the bus home and there was no place for me on the big bus. In half an hour, a smaller bus would come to pick up those left behind. I tried to convince the single young adults (half my age) to let me on the first bus because I needed to get home quickly to release our baby sitter, but no one budged. There was a supervising rabbi on the bus who I thought would rebuke them. Instead, he got out and said: take my place, please. I did and I was so impressed.

I met so many amazing people that it’s easy in comparison to stay humble. In fact, already when I was young, I found everyone else amazing.

I set out in life as extremely shy and a tremendously good listener. I developed the courage to be the life of the party and to talk. But I’m still, basically the same shy guy. And shy doesn’t jive with arrogant.

I’m a happy camper and you can’t be haughty and happy at the same time.

My father grew up poor. He “escaped” by being smart through no success of his own. He became a physician. His parents who had helped him were murdered in the Holocaust so he felt he owed them. He despised snobs. Sometimes there was a party of colleagues he had to go to at one of those villas with a piece of garden followed by forest. Returning he would whisper: “not a book in the bookcase.” Trade union leaders for their yearly checkup went especially to him because he was friendly. A good example!

I repeated to myself for decades: I will always remember that I’m but a drip on the ocean, a speck of dust in the universe.

I remember realizing that no one came to this life with the sole objective of making me happy. Everyone has the right to have higher priorities than me. At the same time, I try to be generous with the most precious thing I have: time, since I like to live in a generous world. As the last Rabbi of Lubavitch told me: The best way to receive happens when you give.

I heard from my rabbi that religious people know that they are obligated and so worry if they are living up to their potential. Any talent one has is a humbling obligation, not an asset to brag about. That helps. Whenever I succeeded in something, I remember how hard I worked for it which gives humble pride, or how little I did for it which erases any credit I could claim.

I like to imitate Inspector Columbo. Snobs don’t like my humble appearance so they avoid me. So their snobbism doesn’t rub off on me.

For half a century, I was convinced that I was stupid — like an anorexic person may see themselves as fat. I reasoned that my thinking was always so slow, not compared to others but to how fast I wanted it to go.

I don’t try to be extremely humble since I don’t need to camouflage being so great. So, I have no trouble quoting someone who calls me the greatest relationship therapist ever.

I pay attention to how G^d constantly makes fun of my attempts to do things perfectly. It’s hard to feel too important when you constantly lack the time and money to do all the things that you see the world is lacking.

I moved to Israel (when the owner of a factory wears jeans at work) and became part of a Mizrachic congregation (where warmth tops formality). Yet, some rabbis there seem so arrogant that they’d never make it in Ashkenazic circles. But the outside doesn’t always reveal the inside. One of them seems very arrogant but he prepares his lectures meticulously. That shows a lot of respect for his students and reveals his true humbleness.

I have much talent for doubt and I’m honest, so how could I be cocksure?

So, some of it is given, some circumstantial and some from my own effort.

My main reward is having been able to raise humble kids. That’s a lot!

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. * NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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