Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Call someone this week to wish him or her mazel tov on a joyous occasion, share something positive about this individual or a family member, or simply make an effort to feel genuinely happy for him/her.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with the previous stretch for ONE minute.
Love Your Fellow Jew As You Love Yourself (Part 2)
V’Ahavta L’Rayacha Kamocha
A neshama (soul) enters a person’s body that is specifically matched to its potential. People often complain about the parents they were born to, the times in which they live and even the body in which they find themselves. We must trust HaShem’s (G-d’s) wisdom in placing our soul in our particular body, family and period of history. We must recognize that the tools we are given in this life are the exact means through which our souls reach their ultimate potential. Without healthy self-esteem, human beings can be challenged in their ability to love others. In sum, if a person can’t love himself, how can he truly love someone else? (from Let’s Face It by Tzipora Heller)
People who value themselves trust that they are worthy of love. They know that the people they love will usually love them in return. They also understand that there are many reasons why some people do not like others or who may have unrealistic demands. When self-aware individuals perform a benevolent act, it stems from a sincere desire to be of help. Their relationships are almost always calm and predictable because their self-esteem is internally driven.
There are two extremes when it comes to self-identity. One extreme is the person who has a tendency to always judge himself favorably and feels he does nothing wrong. The other type notices all of his faults and only judges himself negatively. Both extremes are harmful. If a person always judges himself favorably, he will never correct his faults because he assumes he has none. Conversely, if a person sees everything he does in a negative light, he is likely to consider himself a failure. Such a person will feel guilty, depressed and will not be motivated to improve.
When a person is aware of both his strengths and his weaknesses he also has the self-confidence to improve. This healthy sense of self breeds self-love and therefore enables one to fulfill the obligation of v’ahavta l’ray’acha kamocha with passion.
(from Gateway to Self Knowledge by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
Story: (based on a true story)
All of us experience difficulty in life. We are often unaware of the impact our behavior has on others or, quite frankly, ourselves. Let me share a short story about an experience I had recently that taught me the importance of self-love.
I grew up in a home where family members habitually looked over their shoulders, observing what others purchased, owned or were seeking. My family was concerned about how the neighbors spent their money and with whom they spent their time. Gossip was frequently shared and expected in our home.
As I grew older, I naturally viewed the world the same way as I had in the past. I busied myself with what everyone around me was doing, always finding a way to rationalize why I needed to know certain pieces of information about other people.
One day, while I was chatting with my friend Hannah in her kitchen, I walked past her bulletin board, which was covered with carpool schedules, dry cleaning bills, and invitations. Knowing that she wouldn’t mind if I read about the upcoming activities in her family’s life, I looked at the board and enjoyed observing the similarities between our lives.
Just as I was about to inform her that the price she paid for dry cleaning her tablecloths was a bargain, I happened to notice an invitation to the Schwartz wedding. The Schwartz’s were old friends of ours. “When did you get this invitation Hannah? I haven’t gotten mine yet." I remarked.
“Oh, about three weeks ago. You didn’t get yours?” Hannah replied.
I was stunned. “How could it be that I didn’t get invited to my friend’s son’s wedding?" I thought to myself. I was just as close to the Schwartz’s, if not closer, than Hannah was. I even traveled to her other son’s bar mitzva a few years ago. I bought their son a nice gift for that bar mitzva too! It reminded me of the time I was overlooked when invitations were sent out for Rachel’s son’s wedding. We’ve been members of the same synagogue for years, not to mention the fact that our children are friendly. It drove me crazy when I wasn’t invited to acquaintances’ simchos (special occasions) or, even worse, when I’d hear that others were invited while I wasn’t. Thinking about this would consume vast parts of my day as I found myself sulking in self-pity or anger.
Hannah looked at me as if reading my mind and said, “I know exactly what you’re thinking and you’re wasting your time. You have such a full life and so many blessings to be thankful for. Why let something like this ruin your day? I know that it’s painful and, frankly, I’m not sure why you weren’t invited but to dwell on something that won’t change is not going to get you anywhere.”
“I know you’re right Hannah and I feel as if I’m acting like a 5-year-old who’s been left out of a birthday party. It just feels hurtful and I find it hard to control feeling slighted when I think about all the others who were invited when I wasn’t. I know it sounds childish but that’s how I feel.”
Hannah poured me a cup of tea and said, “The only reason I feel I can talk to you about this is because I used to suffer this way. I would view everything as a personal insult and felt everyone had an active social life but me. I told myself I was excluded, so I felt excluded. Fortunately, someone pointed out to me that if I wait for everyone else to love me in this world before I loved myself, I’d be left a sad and lonely woman. She explained that all of our lives include many curveballs with life circumstances that often don’t seem fair. If we truly realize our value, focus on what we do have and the strengths HaShem has given us, then we’ll waste less time thinking about everything we’re missing out on.
After speaking with Hannah for a long time, I realized I needed an overhaul in my thinking. I don’t know if it was the way she said it, or if I was just feeling vulnerable and open, but I was actually able to internalize the message she was trying to convey.
Hannah taught me that, in order to truly feel happy, be productive, and have healthy relationships, I must learn to take stock of my own life and realize how blessed I am. Focusing on everything I don’t have only creates an emotional reality of dissatisfaction. Being able to see my strengths and concentrate on the blessings in my life positively impacts my level of personal self-satisfaction and my relationships. Since this incident, I notice that when I feel good about myself, I am a better friend and a better e’ved HaShem (servant of G-d). When I truly love myself, not only do my relationships benefit but I also feel that I am optimally utilizing the soul HaShem has given me.
If everyone were to view themselves as tremendously worthwhile people, with a vast amount of potential, how would this change their relationships?
What happens to people who feel the need to be the best, or exceptionally successful, in order to feel good?
To what degree should other people’s opinions of you make you feel positively or negatively about yourself?
Stretch of the Week:
Every night before you go to sleep this week, review five positive acts you performed that day.