We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s Stretch of the week was: Make it a point to verbally wish others well this week.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Do Not Take Revenge and Do Not Bear a Grudge --
Lo Sikom v’Lo Sitor
HaShem (G-d) is well aware of the pain a person feels when he has been hurt and the pleasure that accompanies getting back at the perpetrator. Nevertheless, the Torah commands us, “Do not take revenge”(Vayikra 19:18).
The Torah tells us not to take revenge and also specifies not to “bear a grudge”. We are expected to erase the memory of what happened from our heart, wipe away hard feelings and treat the other person as if nothing ever happened. If the Torah demands such conduct, then, while it may be a challenge, it is definitely possible.
(Excerpts from The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
Deena and I initially met at the playground. From the first moment we knew we’d be best friends forever. We shared similar interests and relied on each other for social support in every situation throughout elementary and middle school.
I wasn’t a born leader, nor particularly outgoing, pretty, or smart, but, by high school, Deena had blossomed into a virtual magnet. Wherever she was, the action swirled. Whenever a position of leadership was needed for drama, choir, special trips, etc., she was chosen. Teachers and principals witnessed the social forces that ultimately served to divide girls into different social groups (“the cool ones”, the “studious ones”, and the “in betweens”). They tried to intervene and, while their efforts were somewhat helpful, all social circles predictably shifted back to their original positions over time.
Initially, Deena would wave to me on occasion but eventually all signs of communication ended, as if we shared no history. She never attempted to bring me into her inner circle or invite me to social outings or parties. I struggled to fit in socially when I really could have used her help.
A few years passed and I came to accept being excluded. While it was no longer crushing to my self-esteem, the pain was still very much there. As time went on, both of us got married and moved forward with our lives. As it happened, we eventually sent our children to the same schools and found our lives intertwining once again.
A few weeks into one school year Deena gave a presentation to the women of the local PTA about a topic that was very dear to her. During her lecture she requested feedback as to whether she should alter and improve her remarks. I thought about sending her a note sharing how much I disliked the speech and felt she was not the best representative to disseminate the information. The best part about this idea was that it could all be anonymous! This was my opportunity to repay a fraction of the pain she had caused me over the years. I could finally kick over the pedestal so firmly placed underneath her that still somehow made me feel so small.
I sat and thought about Deena’s speech. It was actually pretty well written. She did come across quite poised and her inner ability as a born leader was quite apparent. I began to reexamine my initial desire to subtly insult her. Was I acting on childhood pain that should perhaps be revisited from a more mature mindset? I began to wonder how many other people I may have subconscious negative feelings about and how this affects my behavior towards them. Although I had the chance to be vengeful I decided to challenge myself to approach the situation from a different perspective.
I sat and wrote Deena a beautiful note about how effective her speech was, how I felt she was very gifted at lecturing, and that I missed the relationship we shared so many years ago. I then decided to hand deliver it to her house.
I was truly surprised when Deena’s husband answered the door and expressed his relief at someone making the effort to provide feedback on her lecture. He told me that not one woman from the audience had said anything to her afterwards or called her and that she was feeling depressed. At that second, it hit me like a flash of lightning. I always felt I needed other people’s positive opinions to validate my existence and so did Deena!
Deena called me later, thanked me profusely and asked for my opinion about another matter. Slowly we began to rebuild a deep and fulfilling friendship. I think that performing an act of kindness on her behalf, especially given our complicated relationship, created an opening for her to make herself vulnerable and share her true self.
Although I had such a ripe opportunity to take revenge, I chose the high road. As a result, I learned that when I make the effort to stretch and grow, it quietly yet powerfully empowers others to follow suit and be “big” in their own way.
In general, is it better to discuss old grudges with the person one is upset with or to keep it in the past and not deal with it?
Is it common for people to bear grudges they are not aware of?
Do people justify bearing a grudge by claiming that they need to teach the other person a lesson? If so, is this effective?
Stretch of the Week:
Choose one person for whom you bear a grudge and think of ways you can allow yourself to forgive them by focusing on their positive traits.