It is my hope this new year, that we all conquer our fears, and attain true peace of mind in all avenues of our lives.
In my previous column I wrote about older singles who were undermining their chance at getting married by letting others make decisions for them on as to whether to date a proposed shidduch or not. In the two cases I cited, one let a mentor and the other, her mother, do the thinking for her. Both nixed the match. The mother was affronted that a divorced father of one had been suggested for her 39-year-old daughter and the other vetoed the date because, “she just didn’t see it.” The girls obediently complied and did not go out.
What the harm would have been with these “girls” investing a couple of hours of their life to meet the guy, I don’t know – but in not meeting, the harm was potentially enormous. While I don’t know the status of the girl in the first case, I do know that the second woman is still single, in her 50’s and statistically unlikely to have a family of her own.
I am not saying that either shidduch would have worked – but they’ll never know and I suspect there were many other “don’t go out” scenarios over the years, very possibly -missed opportunities.
This dead-end behavior brings to mind a joke I once heard. Anehrlich but poor man, up to his ears in debt, would cry to Hashem every time the winner of a big lottery was announced, asking why he couldn’t be a winner. Week after week there would be a lottery, and this unfortunate man would wail to Shomayim, bemoaning his cruel fate and bad luck, wondering what would be the big deal if he won even a small amount of money. Finally, after a particularly bitter rant, the man heard a Heavenly voice. “Rev Yid, the voice called out – I hear your pleas and they have moved Me but you have to buy a ticket!
People, especially, long time singles, should take heed of Hillel’s statement – “If I am not for myself, who will be.” It’s certainly acceptable, even commendable to ask those close to you for an opinion and input before you accept a date – but at the end of the day – it should be your decision, because it’s your life and your married friend/parent/mentor will not be affected by your decision, but yours very likely will be by theirs – whether they insist you pass on this date – or the opposite – whether they push you to accept when your gut feeling tells you not to.
Why are some people afraid to take responsibility for their lives? My guess – and it is purely speculation on my part since I am not a therapist – is that they don’t have self confidence – a very necessary component in taking risks. A tragic sense of inadequacy makes them hesitant to move forward on their own – much like a pre-nursery student on his first day of school who will not step into the classroom by himself – insisting his mother come in with him.
I truly believe that people who have managed to avoid getting married and are older, (but have no obvious reason for not finding a mate, such as a serious physical or mental handicap, chronic unemployment, criminal background, very poor hygiene – to name a few) need to go on a journey of self-discovery to see what is holding them back. What is it that makes women turn away fine suitors, and men turn away women who have all the qualities of an aishet chayil?
On a conscious level, they truly want to move forward and build a bayit ne’eman and they make the effort by going to singles Shabbatonim, signing up for on-line dating services, etc. but very likely on a sub-conscious level, they have built a wall whose foundation is fear and a negative self-perception. It is crucial to become aware of this self-imposed barrier, for only then can the individual be helped to find the tools to break it down. There can be any number of reasons for fearing marriage – a fear of failure, a fear of being “found” out that they are not the “great” person people think they are, a fear of being boxed in, of being controlled. They need to know where this fear is coming from and be helped in dissipating it.
This fear is not exclusive to marriage. There are many very bright, talented people who are under-educated, underemployed or who have not made the most of their gifts and abilities. They are afraid to live up to their potential and prefer to be ordinary – even sub par.