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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
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Getting The Best Messages

Suzanne called me today about the newest humiliation she had just experienced. At the gym, a personal trainer loudly reprimanded her for trying to help another person with some equipment, and he did so in front of nearly everybody who was working out there.

Suzanne doesn’t ever want to see that trainer again or ever face the people who were in the gym today while she was being berated. I tried as best as I could to give Suzanne the warm support that she needed. Later on, though, when she was insisting that she could never return to the gym, I shared an insight that popped up. It seemed like there was a clearer message than usual in this latest episode of frequently recurring humiliations, since it was a “personal trainer” who had been hurtful to her this time.

Not going back to the gym wouldn’t put an end to these kinds of pain-evoking experiences in Suzanne’s life, although it would be a good idea to avoid a person with that kind of explosive temper, and report his behavior to his superiors. The reason why these types of intimidating patterns keep repeating, though, should not be avoided.

When certain painful patterns of behavior keep repeating in our lives, it is a major clue that there is an important communication we need to receive. The personal trainers we encounter may differ radically in appearance, yet they’re all delivering the very same message we desperately need to get.

Who are these “personal trainers?” It is not just somebody spitefully out to “get” us. And he or she is not being sent directly our way by an external vindictive kind of God, trying to ultimately make our lives miserable. In fact, we, ourselves, are often, unwittingly, these personal trainers too, helping others to get the very uncomfortable messages they may not feel like getting, but are, nevertheless, vital to their greatest fulfillment.

Personal training sessions are continuously going on because our souls are yearning – non-stop – for the deepest pleasure possible. What is that pleasure? It is to blossom to our full potential.

About half of all people, for example, probably need to become gentler, more compassionate and more giving. Then there’s the other half who nearly always need to become stronger, tougher and more assertive. And each of us keeps getting painful communications – in strikingly similar patterns – throughout our lives, so that we can become more balanced in these essential qualities.

Recently I got hurt because somebody disregarded a business agreement we had made. Why did I trust the person so implicitly beforehand? Hadn’t I been in a seemingly different, but actually similar situation not so long before? Why was I again disregarding the red flags, not taking precautions, and naively hoping for the best outcome?

As hard as it is for so many to stand up for themselves, be assertive, and resist being trampled upon, there are those who find it almost just as impossible to refrain from forging ahead to gain an ever increasing power over others. It is probably as hard for the more ruthless types to take the time to pause and listen respectfully to others – and then respond with genuine warmth – as it is for the non-assertive types to demand to be heard.

In Kohelet (Ecclesiates 3:1-8) Shlomo HaMelech explains what he has come to understand:

For everything there is a season, A right time for every intention under heaven, A time to be born and a time to die, A time to plant and a time to uproot, A time to kill and a time to heal, A time to tear down and a time to build, A time to weep and a time to laugh, A time to mourn and a time to dance, A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones, A time to embrace and a time to refrain, A time to search and a time to give up, A time to keep and a time to discard, A time to tear and a time to sew, A time to keep silent and a time to speak, A time to love and a time to hate, A time for war and a time for peace.

There are times that we need to learn how to be more trusting and times when we need to be less trusting. Situations when we need to demonstrate more patience with people, and circumstances when we have been way too patient. Life seems to be so much about learning how to become more balanced and developing the flexibility to respond fluidly at the appropriate time. We are all here to help each other become our most actualized selves, even though the growing pains can really be excruciating at times.

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One Response to “Getting The Best Messages”

  1. Hinda Bayla says:

    May we all be blessed to open to the joy of this balance that you speak of, and the capacity to change unhealthy patterns in our lives that keep repeating themselves so we can continue to grow. And to celebrate these achievements with gratitude to a loving G-d.

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Suzanne called me today about the newest humiliation she had just experienced. At the gym, a personal trainer loudly reprimanded her for trying to help another person with some equipment, and he did so in front of nearly everybody who was working out there.

This is a handy little jingle for parents to keep in mind, but even though it’s short, my rhyme is not for little children. In order to adequately prepare our children we must first be aware of the red flags ourselves. Then we need to schedule an “annual check-up” with our children and clearly and calmly bring up the subject of personal safety.

Over 30 years ago, Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum had not yet found the world of wisdom in the Torah.

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They’re usually especially friendly and charming. They often do plenty of public acts of chesed. This is done in order to look good and gain respectability and positions of authority – and unquestioned access to potential victims. And the fact is, they can do really nice things because they may actually be kind and intelligent people in some ways. But not in other ways.

Chaya’s older yeshiva-bochur brother told her that there was no problem with his touching her body. He told her it wasn’t against the Torah, and he seemed to know a lot more Torah than she did at the tender age of 6. He continued to touch her first over her clothes, but as the years passed, the abuse progressed to actual rape. Eventually he got married and started a family, appearing to function just fine to nearly everyone in the community. However, he left his younger sister, now in her late twenties, crippled – emotionally, sexually and spiritually.

I had recently had the opportunity to sit down with Rabbi Alexander Seinfeld, author of the new book, The Art of Kavana (Devora Publishing, July 2009) and discuss what it means to truly focus on yiddishkeit.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/getting-the-best-messages/2012/01/12/

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