This column includes small doses of Rebbe Nachman’s wisdom, helping us to get through the week in a more spiritual way.
Rebbe Nachman’s primary disciple was Reb Noson of Breslov. In his magnum opus, Likutey Halachos, Reb Noson writes the following: “One of the reasons why people give up (on serving Hashem) is that they look at their contemporaries and imagine them to be far worthier than they themselves are.”
Simply put, this means the yetzer hara is adept at getting us to compare ourselves to others. Invariably this causes us to become dejected because we are intimately aware of our personal failures and shortcomings of character while we often remain completely unaware of the spiritual challenges others are facing. We are comparing our “insides” to other people’s “outsides.”
This is a sure-fire way for us to become discouraged in our path of personal growth. Reb Noson is telling us that this is so damaging it could even lead us to completely abandon our service of Hashem.
So how are we to combat this destructive tendency to compare ourselves to others? The first step is to internalize the fact that we truly have no idea what someone else might be struggling with. The second step is to realize the yetzer hara is sending us these thoughts because of how damaging and destructive they are.
Reb Noson writes something truly shocking in Alim LiTerufah (Letter #9): “Sadness, depression, anxieties, and doubts are highly damaging and are more destructive, G-d forbid, than one’s wrongdoing.”
Damaging and destructive thoughts that cause sadness have a worse aspect to them than actual wrongdoing! This is because the dejection following a sin often lasts much longer than the sin itself and has the ability to cause us to give up altogether.
May Hashem help us to become adept at not comparing ourselves to others and to keep a positive attitude as we navigate the many trials and tribulations we face on our path towards complete teshuva. Amen.