How can you know when prideful thoughts are coming from your ego or your soul?
Many times a person feels self-confident and passionately driven to accomplish great things and initially this all appears to be just inflated ego but after clarification it may be that her strength of mind and heart derives from the divine light shining in her soul radiating the grandeur of G-d. I struggle with this often.
I remember a dialogue with a colleague. I shared with him that I feel this passion to reach people worldwide and help them improve the spiritual quality of their lives. But where is all this coming from? Is it a profound inner sense of my calling and destiny? Is G-d speaking to me through the restless stirrings of my soul? Or perhaps this is just my petty ego seeking the limelight; a desire for self- aggrandizement. Is this my ego and self-serving interests or a deep sense of my soul’s destiny? My friend said, “You decide. If you use your drives to do good, help people and improve the world, then it is the holiest self-service you could do. It will then be obviously your soul.”
In other words, there is nothing wrong with thinking you are talented and feeling passionate, as long as you use it to do great things for others and G-d. Only when you feel good about yourself will you do good for others, and only when you do good for others will you feel good about yourself. Is your drive for success derived from the grandeur of your soul? Is it coming from a sense of your spiritual mission and desire to serve humanity and G-d? Or is it just ego? It simply depends on whether you desire to be good or simply look good.
Sometimes people take the wind out of their own sails and undermine the good that they could do by questioning the sincerity of their intentions, thinking ‘Hmm, look at me, who do I think I am, how egotistical of me to think this way about myself. To be humble I should step out of the spotlight; I should hide myself in a corner.’ Not only is there nothing wrong with confidently acknowledging our talents and strengths, but on the contrary there is something very wrong when we don’t acknowledge our talents and strength. If, for example, you have a talent for public speaking, then realize that your ‘gift of gab’ is a gift from G-d and you have a responsibility to humanity and G-d to use it. If you don’t use your G-d given talents then you are an ingrate. In fact, not using your talents is a sign that you actually think they are yours and not G-d’s. This attitude is actually a very subtle form of ego and haughtiness.
On the other hand, it would be self-destructive if you use your talents and forget that they are G-d given gifts and mistakenly pride yourself thinking ‘This is my strength, my power.’ This kind of pride alienates you from the true source of your strength-G-d and the true purpose of your strength—to serve G-d by materializing in this world divine values and ideals.
If we reject the holy self-esteem that stirs within us, we will not only fail to achieve any good for ourselves and others, but we will eventually become depressed and angry. We are simply gagging and ultimately strangling our soul. If you have been given the ability to be a brilliant businessman, a skilled surgeon or an awesome composer, and you question ‘who am I, how haughty, what will people think?’ then you are confused. You need to understand the difference between the ego which separates you from G-d and the truth sense of mission and grandeur which places you in humble service of G-d. G-d may want to reveal His wisdom, creativity, kindness, justice, compassion, peace, beauty through you and improve the world. Your drive and determination may be the grandeur of G-d that is seeking to become manifest in the world through you. So let your soul shine!