Tuesday, January 19, 2010


"Our friends are real and precious treasures of our lives"

How often do we stop and take the time to realize this? When was the last time you took a moment to appreciate the actual presence of someone in your life?
Sadly, most of us may answer....
not often enough.
How quickly can we access the list of everything that we don't like? Most of us, will probably answer.... very quickly.
From the moment we begin to see only the negative traits in others, we find it difficult to move away from them. We label people and the labels remain. It remains in our mind, whenever we interact with them. It remains in our thoughts and it usually slips out, and appears in our words. When it remains, it continues to grow. Usually, it grows so big and it becomes so magnified, that we actually create monsters in our minds. We are capable of making our situations much worse than they are. No matter how hard we look, all we see is what is wrong. We search and search, but can't seem to find anything good. If our minds are filled with negative thoughts of others, there is no space left for positive thoughts or for loving thoughts. That other person can do no right. When that happens, we actually begin to believe that everything we've created, is true.

It appears that all we see is the flaws in others. Maybe, the flaw is in us? Our flaw is that we are so quick to see other's flaws. If we want to achieve any level of contentment, satisfaction or joy, we must work on our character traits and learn to develop positive vision. We have to put all our situations through the mussar lens. We have to be able to see the precious value each and every person is to our life.

People become what we see.
If we can manage to turn our heart towards goodness and live with mussar vision, we will be able to treat others based on the good that we see in them. Amazingly, when we do, people may change. As we state often in the vaads, we are not working on the character traits of others. We are working to improve our character traits. Living by the mussar lessons helps us to see others in a brighter light. This is the most precious gift you can give to a loved one. What we see- is obvious to others. They can often hear our thoughts, for we display them in our interactions. Once we start treating others from the perspective of only seeing their positive traits, we can lift them up and make them feel worthwhile. They will feel honored and respected. You will enhance your relationships tremendously. When you view others from this perspective, you will be able to see what a real and precious treasure they truly are!

*Situation: A mother was struggling to deal with her young son's "hyper-behavior." His teachers constantly called her in for conferences about his conduct. Little by little the situation become more difficult for the mother. Each teacher's comment caused her more distress. Soon, every time she looked at her son, all she saw was this incorrigible, difficult, "hyper" child. The monster in her mind was growing larger. Whenever, he displayed a "hyper" behavior, the mother said, " stop that right now, why must you always behave this way, you are completely out of control, when will you ever learn to calm down." One day, she realized, this had to change. As she started to apply mussar wisdom to the situation, she was able to completely turn the situation around, by viewing her son's behavior as "energy," positive energy, a gift that he was born with that will benefit him when channeled properly. She began to speak to him from a positive perspective. She was able to help him connect to this "good energy" to help him put it to use, on a positive path. He maintained a busy schedule of physical activity and soon, the mother was able to look at her son's energy as a benefit, not a handicap. She was able to once again, start enjoying him, and all of his traits. Her son also was able to change the way he viewed himself.

All of us have traits that may have two sides to them. We all want to be judged for the good. For example, if a child is disorganized; they may be a creative, artistic child. It's important to keep the focus on the good side of the trait. In addition, if a woman manages several tasks throughout her very busy day, her husband may judge her unfavorably for doing too many things at once OR he can see her as a power-house, who is full of passion and enthusiasm. It's all how you see it.

Character trait development is a process for the very strong, courageous and brave. These traits are necessary, as we begin to discover our own flaws. We cannot achieve personal excellence if we are busy making lists of other's flaws. Mussar is a personal excellence program. It is the path to awareness, knowledge and enlightenment. We can only discover our good-ness, when we stop looking for other's bad-ness. As soon as we stop looking at their flaws, the monster in our mind disappears. Once our vision improves, we can actually begin to enjoy the other person.

What is the important and invaluable contribution they make to your life?
Next time, if you are in the middle of a conflict, try the "PAUSE" and think about this. What is the most important and invaluable contribution this person makes to my life? In our closest relationships, the ones most precious to us, we possess a high level of sensitivity, in every interaction. We may be extra-sensitive and easily hurt. Especially, when we are enduring difficulties that challenge our behavior. In fact, the essence of good inter-personal relationships is to always be more sensitive, caring and considerate of the other person. To stay connected to this, one must always keep in mind (especially during difficult situations), to PAUSE and immediately remind yourself of....
that one important and invaluable contribution this person brings to your life.

TEXT: The Agadata of the Talmud/Brachos 28B
When Rabbi Eliezer was stricken with his final illness, his students went to visit him and they asked him, "Rabbi, teach us the paths of life so that we may merit through them a share in the World to Come." He replied, "Be careful with the honor of your friends."

Imagine the importance of honoring one's friend! The Torah holds it with such high value that if we are able to achieve this in our relationships, we will merit a share in the World to Come. Through this we learn, this is something we must pay close attention to. Of course, we acknowledge that "friends" are also wives, husbands, family members and other relationships. However, the Torah refers to "wives" in the verse (Malachie 2:14) "And your wife is your friend and the woman of your covenant." Through the honor that a husband affords his wife, he merits to come close to the holiness and light of HaShem. In other words, honoring your friend is not just a nice, smart way to behave. It is a highly valued spiritual trait which has a powerful effect in Shemayim.

Through the text we also learn, that a spouse is included as a friend because a tremendous amount of care and respect needs to go into a marriage. The reason being, that over time marriage can become functional. It can become mechanical and without feeling. In a marriage, we should always honor our partner as our friend- to refresh and renew the holiness of the relationship, in order to bring more happiness into it. In close relationships, we tend to let down our guard. Often, we behave better in public. We take the ones we love for granted. Usually, treating them with less honor and respect than they deserve.

Do we even know how to honor and respect our friends? Certainly, we know how we want to be honored and respected by our friends and loved ones. If we keep this in mind, maybe it will be easier to treat others with that same level of honor and respect. Basically, we all want someone by our side and on our side. Someone to care for us and share with us. Someone to lift us up with encouraging words, when we're feeling down. Someone you are sure you can count on, in times of need. Someone who can respect your opinion, when it's different than their own and honor you for your unique differences. Someone who is not always against you, but someone who is always for you and with you, believing in you, encouraging you and seeing the beauty in you, that maybe you don't even see.

The text states that "Rabbi Eliezer instructed his students to be mindful of their friends' invaluable contribution to their well-being." Our friends and loved ones contribute so much to our lives. Surely, there is one special contribution from your loved one or friend, that you can become mindful of .... and remember to always keep it with you. When you do, you will bring great honor and respect into all your relationships... and into your life.

Our friends are valuable, precious treasures to our lives. They contribute so much that make our lives worthwhile and meaningful. Be mindful of this and keep it in mind. Never let it go.
The avodah is to make a list of all your valued relationships and beside their name, write the invaluable, important contribution they bring to your life. Then... give them the greatest honor of all, tell them.

Blessings for a beautiful week filled with love, honor and respect.

Note: It is important to keep in mind when learning mussar, that one specific lesson is not the answer to one specific problem you may be experiencing. When in a situation that needs resolution, customize it according to all the mussar knowledge and wisdom you have been learning. ***In extenuating circumstances, related to serious situations, please consult a professional, doctor, counselor, therapist, or Rabbi.***

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