Tuesday, 22 July 2008

I am Proud to be Me - A Lesson in Keeping the Peace

I am proud to be me
But I also see
You are just as proud to be you.
We may look at things a bit differently,
But lots of good people do.
It is just human nature
So why should I hate you
For being as human as I.
We'll live and let live
And we'll get as we give
And we'll all get along if we try.
I am proud to be me,
But, I also see.
You are just as proud to be you,
'Tis true, you are just as proud to be you.
(Unknown Author)
This poem I learned as a song at a camp when I was at high school. It always made quite an impression on me. The poem/song really provides a summary of teachings from Hillel and Shammai, two of our great Sages.
Hillel teaches "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? (I am proud to be me) and if I am only for myself, who am I? ..."[1] (but I also see you are just as proud to be you)
He continues to teach that “we should learn from Aaron, the brother of Moshe our teacher, loving peace and pursuing peace.”[2] This teaching is summarised in the rest of the poem by reminding us to see the other person’s point of view.
One of the teachings of Shammai, provides another insight: “To receive every person with a cheerful countenance"[3] How do we do this?
If we have the self-esteem which one has if one is proud to be who you are, recognizing that you are who Hashem created you to be and use all you have to bring goodness and kindness to the world, then you are free to smile at others. How so? This frame of mind and recognition that every person is created for a specific purpose and that no-one can duplicate another’s role in life, no matter how hard they try, gives one an inner sense of peace. When one feels at peace with ones self and has complete faith that Hashem is guiding your every moment, then you are able to smile at others. In return you send a message to the other that you recognize that they too have a role to play and you are not threatened by this, since every person is unique and every person is important.
May the teaching of the poem together with the teachings of Hillel and Shammai as taught in Pirkei Avos help us to spread peace in the world.

[1] Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) 1:14
[2] Ibid.1:12
[3] Ibid 1:15

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