Throughout our lifetime, usually during the hard times, we find ourselves asking the question, why? Why did this happen to me, and why didn’t this event work out or fail. Why is this one sick and why does this one have no children and so on. There is a voice within us that creeps up from the depth of our soul, and it seems to yell out WHY when things don’t look the way we think they should. The thoughts in our minds and in our hearts are like a muscle. The way we train ourselves to think and feel, will over time be conditioned and will set us on the path that we trained ourselves to think. If we think negatively, it will affect us and mold the way we see things.
No one likes to be in the company of a pessimistic and depressing person. To say the least, it’s not a pleasant experience. On the other hand being in the presence of positive and enthusiastic people, is a great and uplifting experience. If we train ourselves to think and feel positive thoughts, it will have a direct affect on our lives as a whole, and at times can even affect our day, or even a specific moment.
In Judaism we learn that to ask the question, why, when things don’t go the way we want, isn’t the correct approach. As G-d fearing Jews we are taught that everything that happens to us, good or bad, are all from above and we must learn to accept it with a whole heart. However, when things go wrong our instinct is to really get upset and aggravated at whatever it is that didn’t work out. And secondly, it doesn’t always make us feel better, at that precise moment, to think it’s all from above, as we are full of hurt and frustration. Since this little voice that calls out “why” is almost an instinct, it’s hard to stop thinking it. In order to remove a negative thought, one must replace it with a positive one instead. It’s not enough to tell yourself to stop thinking something wrong, since that will just cause you to think about it even more. Let’s say someone tells you not to think of the color blue, which will be the first thing you think of? It will be the color blue.
So instead of crying out the word ‘Why’ replace it with the word ‘What’. ‘What’ has a positive connotation. It’s the positive word that will replace the word “Why?”
‘Why,’ questions G-d’s actions as if they were a mistake, heaven forbid. It’s as if we are saying, we know what’s better for us than Hashem does. This is obviously the wrong approach. The word ‘What’ on the other hand, is the positive side, it says: What do you want from me Hashem, in this situation? The word, ‘what’, forces us to look within ourselves, and ask ourselves what can we take from this experience. What can we do with all our frustration and hurt? What can we do to feel better? ‘What,’ is humbling, ‘why,’ is demanding.
When a child is rebuked for some reason and they start crying, why? Why can’t I go out with my friends? Why can’t I have that candy? Why can’t I take the car? The parent doesn’t feel very compassionate or caring at that moment, and certainly he doesn’t want to give the crying child whatever it is they are crying for. Now if this disappointed, hurt, or frustrated child would come to their parents and say; “what do you want from me? What can I do to have you listen to me and grant me what I wish for?
With this approach of ‘what,’ it is so much easier and more pleasant, and probably the parent will want to explain, and maybe even compromise. No one likes to be told what to do or to be yelled at. The ‘why’ concept is one where one side wins, and one side loses. ‘One up, one down’. The ‘what’ concept is saying, help me understand what I should do? What can I do that will please you and help me understand what it is that you want from me?
We all have so many situation in our lives that arise and confront us with having to make a choice of which word to use, ‘why’ or what. Thinking about the difference in these two words will help create a healthy and positive environment around us. This choosing of the words is an exercise, in which we are training our minds and hearts to be humble, to be positive, and to be in a situation that we are asking for G-ds help, rather than demanding it.
‘What’ will bring us closer to serving our creator, closer to our purpose in life, closer to understanding what it is we are all meant to be accomplishing in the short time we are given here in this world.