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Realizing Your Potential at the same time Realizing Happiness
By Nathan Morenu
Most problems that people face can be divided into two broad catagories: outside problems and inside problems. Outside problems are those that come on to a person from the outside; problems that he has little or no control over, that he has not actively caused and by come from an outside source. Outside are like money problems the stock market fell, or health problems you become ill, or the car's motor died. Problems like this are generated from the outside and the person has little, if any, responsibility for or control over them.
But second type of problem that comes from the inside and are generally dependent upon him. It is mostly these which rob many people of being happy and take away any possibility for a positive outlook and reduce the likelihood of being liked by those people who are close to you. These difficulties are often generated by the person himself although he generally puts the blame on outside sources. However if he becomes aware of his thought patterns and his mind's value judgements he can not only avoid this type of depression and he stands good chances to even enhance his own personal happiness.
Everyone who ever read a Jewish book on morals and ethics know that one of the most important aspects of living with people is to give the other fellow the benefit of the doubt, to judge him favorably. When we are told to do this, we are not just talking about our close and good friends, but even those people whom we perceive as wicked persons and evil doers, people who seem to be doing 'bad' things, people who we deem to be going in the opposite direction of all that is good.
When we are taught to judge some one meritoriously, it means that we must not just try to overlook his short comings, those obvious negative traits that he possesses but even more so, to see where he actually excels us in one way or another. This is possible if we remember that there is no such person as totally evil and bad just like there is no person who only does good and not some bad.
When we call someone 'good' or 'bad' we are generalizing about someone; we are looking at only some particular aspect and ignoring others. Even one aspect has both good and bad about it: a 'giver' whom we perceive as good, can be judged as 'bad' since he gives too much, or reduces the drive of the other person who receives a gift from trying harder to succeed, etc.
There is a Chasidic story about a rebbi, a grand rabbi who was one of the students of the saintly Baal Shem Tov. Every Friday night after the Shabbat meal he would have a tish. A tish is Yiddish for a table, but in the broader Chassidic sense means a gathering of the Chassidim with their rebbi around a table were they would eat a small bit, sing some songs and hear their rebbi explain some deep insights in the Torah or in serving G-d.
This particular tish took place in the synagogue which was on one side of the small town where as the rebbi lived on the opposite side of the town. When the rebbi finished his own personal Shabbat evening meal he would set out on foot for the tish. The people in the town would wait for the rebbi to pass and come join him in walking to the synagogue. As they walked the crowd got bigger and bigger until everyone would join in one big mass procession heading toward the synagouge.
One Friday night, like all the previous Friday nights, the rebbi began his procession to the synagogue. As he passed the Jewish houses, the men would slip out of their house and join his entourage. Upon entering the synagogue, the men took their places around the large table. They began singing the traditional Friday night songs and waited for the rebbi to begin his sermon. The rebbi as usual looked around the room recognizing all the familiar faces, but unlike times before, the rebbi just sat quietly without beginning to give over his deep insights.
The men sensing that the rebbi was not ready to speak continued with more songs, but the rebbi did not give any indication that he was ready to speak. The men sang out their rather long repertoire of songs and still the rebbi did not show any indication that he was ready to speak. They looked at each other, trying to understand the reason for the rebbi's silence but no one had even a slim clue.
It was late into the night when the rebbi finally began to speak. He spoke at length and in depth and when he finished he stood up to leave. The Chassidim were relieved that they could go home now for it was late and they were tired.
It was only one of the rebbi's close students that accompanied him to his door. Just before the rebbi was to bid the student a 'good Shabbos' farewell for the night, the student asked the rebbi for the reason that he waited so long before delivering his sermon.
The rebbi explained to him that it is his custom that before he speaks to his Chassidim, he looks around the room and looks at each person that is assembled there. He always looks to see a merit in the other that he does not possess. This keeps him from thinking that he is superior or better than anyone else. It is easy to get a swelled head in this world, especially when you sit at the head of a table of many Chassidim. Normally, he explained, it is easy to see the advantage that his Chassidim have over him in something, but this particular night he saw one chassid coming to join the tish whom he saw with his ruach haKodesh, (his exceptional abilities to see into a person's soul), who had committed a grave and very serious sin!
The rebbi explained that he was totally shocked at this revelation but he kept it to himself. Once he arrived at the tish and he looked around seeking that point in each and every chassid in which he excelled and he, the rebbi, failed. He had difficulties in finding any meritorious point in this particular person. That was the reason that he could not speak. Finally he realized that had he, the rebbi, committed such a grievous sin, he would never have the ability to go to a tish. Once he saw that this man did possess an advantage over him, he realized that he was ready to speak.
Now perhaps it is not necessary for us to go to such great lengths, but the message is clear. Finding a merit in others brings us down to earth. It creates good will between us and the other person. When you see a definite good point that the other person possesses that you do not, you will realize that that person is not so bad (and that you are not so great). The other person will sense that you have proper regard for him even though he knows that he is not with out faults.
This will change your negative mind set and bring you many friends and it is very easy to do. It is very contagious and will quickly become a good habit that you can share with others.
from the May 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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