Last week’s stretch of the week was: Before you say something funny, consider whether it may hurt anyone.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Communication and Grudges
“Do not hate your brother in your heart; give rebuke to your friend” (Vayikra 19:17). The Rambam (Hilchos Da'os 6:6) understands that these two mitzvos are connected. Do not hate your brother in your heart; rather, you should approach him and ask him why he did something to upset you. This will afford him the opportunity to explain himself and/or ask forgiveness.
Part of the responsibility is not only to effectively communicate, but to allow the other person to communicate, without getting angry at him for sharing his feelings. If someone is afraid to share their feelings, he or she will be forced to bottle resentment.
Often, we may be able to come up with a clever way of pointing out the issue without hurting the other person’s feelings. We must always take the time to consider how we can approach the subject in the most delicate fashion before we freely express our complaints. We cannot be lazy at the expense of someone else’s feelings.
This is reminiscent of the following halacha (Ramabam, Hilchos Retzicha 1:13): If one sees someone chasing another person to kill him, he is obligated to stop the pursuer, even if it means taking the pursuer’s life. However, if he can stop him, i.e. he can shoot him in the leg, he is forbidden to kill him.
Often we may feel, “Why should I have to tell the other person what he did wrong? If he can’t figure it out himself, something is wrong.” Such thoughts stem from immaturity and stubbornness. One must yield to approach the subject, regardless of whether the other person should have come to it on his own. It’s better to humble yourself and ask for what you want than to hold a grudge for not getting it.
(Reproduced from Run After the Right Kavod by Rabbi Moshe Don Kestenbaum, with permission of the author and copyright holders, Israel Bookshop Publications).
Story: (based on a true story)
For months I had been planning to fly to my parents’ in New York with my husband and kids for the long Memorial Day weekend. We were looking forward to some quality time with my parents, who we rarely see in person. My parents planned a whole series of activities to maximize their time with their across-the-country grandchildren.
We were waiting for our luggage in Kennedy Airport on Thursday night when my phone rang. It was my sister Debra, welcoming me to the east coast where she lived as well, although she lived a two hour drive away from our parents. Then she asked what time we thought we’d get to my parents. I told her, and asked her why.
“We thought we’d join you!” she said. “We haven’t seen you in ages, and we thought it would be fun to see Mommy and Daddy when we’d all be together. So we’re coming!”
Too many thoughts ran through my head. I knew that Debra and her family spent last Shabbos with my parents, but my mother had a policy never to refuse a child who wants to visit. I knew we flew across the country specifically to maximize the time each of our children had with their grandparents, and that Debra knew this might be our only trip this year. I knew that Debra had five kids, and that my parents had two bedrooms besides their own, which were supposed to go to me, my husband and the baby and to my other three kids.
“Don’t worry about the beds,” Debra said, seemingly reading my mind. “You and Daniel take one, and Judah and I will take the other. And the kids can have a big sleepover on the basement floor! It’ll be tight, but they’re cousins!" I had no words, and so I said nothing. She and her family were already twenty minutes away from my parents’ house and would be there when we arrived. Nothing I said could change the situation, so I told her I would see her soon.
The visit was a whirlwind of craziness. None of my kids slept at all, because sharing a sleeping space with their cousins didn’t allow them to indulge their jetlag. Many of the activities we had planned were cancelled because we were now too large a group. And my kids felt left out with so many other people competing for their grandparents’ attention.
By Saturday night I was a wreck, saying things I hope I never hear my children say at all, much less about their own siblings. My husband suggested that I talk to my sister and explain why I was upset, so this wouldn’t happen again. He also hoped it would help me not to feel so angry, which wasn’t good for me in and of itself. But I couldn’t. A person who could pull a move like this either didn’t care about my feelings or didn’t have a clue as to why there would be an issue and didn’t stop to think about it. There was no point in my going to her; nothing would change.
My husband suggested again a week later that I speak to her. He conceded that in the moment I might have been too upset and it wasn’t the right time, but after a week I could clear the air. I refused, and refused again a month later. She needed to figure out what she did and come to me. I stewed in my anger for five months, talking pretty words on the phone with her while feeling ugly ones, until my brother in New York made a bar mitzva. I flew in on my own, and while the men were in shul Debra began talking about the “wonderful” weekend we’d had.
Before I knew it, I exploded into a tirade about Debra’s lack of consideration. She was aghast. She told me that if I’d said something to her, she would have taken her family home Sunday morning and left us those two days with my parents. While I don’t know if that actually would have happened, it showed caring on her part, and I was able to slow myself down enough to listen to her point of view. I realized that while her perspective may have caused me problems, it was a valid perspective that I needed to at least consider. I had planned our whole long weekend without including her family at all, and they truly missed us. Had I included them in a way I found manageable, we all would have come out ahead. My anger floated away in the face of increased understanding.
Instead of simply stewing in resentment, I should have prepared my words, said a perek of tehillim and asked Hashem to help smooth out the conversation, and then called Debra. Then I wouldn’t have exploded at her due to holding in negative feelings for so long. We could have talked things out respectfully a lot earlier, and I wouldn’t have had to hold that hate in me.
Questions for Discussion:
How can holding in hate or anger cause damage? How does it damage the relationship between the two people, and the person himself who holds it in?
How can we tell what should be brought out into the open and discussed and what should be dealt with in other ways?
When bringing up a grievance, what are some ways to do so respectfully and productively?
Stretch of the Week:
Discuss a concern you have with someone in a productive way, with extra planning toward being respectful.