Wednesday, January 16, 2013

LOVING DIFFICULT PEOPLE

I am back! After a long hiatus from my blog, I am excited to share the newest mussar lessons with you.
I have been on break because I have been finishing my book... How I learned to "Become The Master of My Emotions through Mussar Wisdom." If you would like first-looks and updates on the book, please email me at mussarvaad@gmail.com. 

LOVING DIFFICULT PEOPLE

One of the 12 step programs has a helpful reminder when dealing with difficult people in difficult situations. In relation to any type of addiction; drugs, alcohol, food, unhealthy relationships, or gambling, the program speaks of 3C’s: Cause, Control and Change.
1) We didn’t Cause their behavior
2) We can’t Control them
3) We can’t Change them or their behavior.

I don’t know anyone who does not have a difficult person to deal with on a daily basis. It may be a co-worker, boss, spouse, sibling or child, whomever it is, everyone has at least one. It must be part of Hashem’s plan because it is so common. They must be there for a reason, something important we are supposed to be learning from this.

And I cannot ignore the fact, that if I step back from myself to see a bigger picture, maybe I am someone else's “difficult person." Wow! That’s a scary thought but it is possible.

Let’s get back to the 3 C’s. So if I am not the cause, if I have no control another person, and there is nothing I can do to change their character traits, behavior, or the situation what am I supposed to do? The program says… all I can do is change myself. It’s a hard habit to break. As much as a person with addiction has to change his (or her) ways, I also have to change the way I interact with him or her.

Change does not come easy. My first reaction is to continue to think that I can change someone else. I believe I have a power, that I can make a difference, that I have some special ability that will be the catalyst for the difficult person to change his ways. I truly believe this and I find it hard to let go of.  But, when I get back to reality, it is crystal clear that I cannot change anybody else. It does not matter how creative, manipulative, punishing, threatening, or distant I become… that person does not change!

The only thing I have personally discovered when interacting with difficult people is that I have two choices: 1) to react impulsively and make a bigger mess of the situation or 2) to change the way I react to the person and the situation.

The Gemara says…” There is nobody in the world who is capable of giving rebuke with sensitivity and certainly no one capable of receiving rebuke.

Humans are simply not wired to receive rebuke or to give it. This is true and obvious. The instant we rebuke someone, they become offended. They are gone! They shut down and close us out. Yet as clear as this is, somehow we just don't want to believe it. We want to continue to change others and tell them exactly how to change. This is often done in disguise, by calling it "unsolicited advice and suggestions." But, if the Gemara says that no one can give or receive rebuke, then it is telling us that all we can do is change ourselves. Maybe that is the plan that Hashem has for us. It is His built-in self-improvement plan for us to become more like Him. It is the only way for us to achieve greater spiritual heights. Exactly how we do this? Tomer Devorah tells us... emulate His ways. And of course, when He gives us a challenge, He also gives us a solution... Mussar wisdom.  It is Hashem's perfect, logical, how-to system. All the answers are there. All we have to do is stop resisting, stop trying to change the unchangeable and learn to apply the answers Hashem has given us. If we do, we will achieve success in dealing with difficult people, become more like Hashem and open ourselves up to receive His blessings.

LESSON: The Beauty of Compassion
Tomer Devorah teaches us that the secret of learning to emulate Hashem is in the Thirteen Attributes of Supernal Compassion. The first attribute is Mi keil Kamocha. "Who is  as merciful as You, Hashem?"The angels tell us Hashem bears insult, tolerates our sins, reacts with compassion, and does not withdraw His life force from us. He grants us life with the hope that eventually we will realize our mistakes, wake up, improve ourselves and become the person He wants us to be. 

How does He do this? There are 3 ways: 
1) We have an inner spiritual meter... our soul. It tells us when we are off center, when pain becomes unbearable. We look within and start to correct ourselves to attain spiritual wellness.
2) Hashem sends us people. (this is evident to those who have been led to Rabbi Miller and his mussar vaads). Certain people come into our lives to help us to do teshuva, to correct and elevate ourselves.
3) Sometimes He just lets us fall, to hit rock bottom. That being the ultimate and hardest wake up call of all; the most painful, yet most effective.

What are we to do? 
1) Pray for the difficult people. Hashem will hear our prayers, uplift them and help them to correct themselves. It's as if we are working with Hashem to help them to help themselves. Pray for strength, wisdom and guidance, for Hashem to also help you through the situation.
2) Send them messages through books or people. Maybe give them a Torah book or Mussar book, or introduce them to someone else who can talk to them, someone they can relate to. 
If you do decide to have a "talk," remember to speak words of love.
Words that come from the heart, enter the heart. Find words of love, compassion and encouragement so that the person receives the message of love and concern, not a message of control, criticism, or judgement... let them know that you are sincerely concerned for their benefit. You only want what is best for them to become a better person, a better version of themselves, to find their tzelem Elokim (the Image of G-d within themselves).

Sometimes it's easier to receive information (that is difficult to accept) if it is given in nano-particles, little pieces. If we proceed with caution, plant little seeds, water it often, give it nutrition, care for it lovingly, slowly the garden will grow.
3) While we continue to pray, plant seeds, act with love and compassion, have strength, faith, hope and belief that Hashem will intercede, there are the times when we just have to step back and wait. 

While we wait, we have to continue to act with rachamim, compassionate and merciful, with tolerance and cheesed. If we do, we awaken the rachamim in Shemayim. When we emulate Hashem, we elevate ourselves, as this ascends to the Heavens, we awaken His Supernal Compassion. We open up to His blessings that will come showering down upon us. 

May we be successful in advancing everyday of our lives with more rachamim and in turn, awaken the rachamim from Hashem. 


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