Recently, I have been working on taking more responsibility over my thinking. When a person on the road cuts me off or honks at me to turn before I am ready, I let the anger and mean thoughts float by me and try to view the world from a different perspective. What if they are late to pick up their child from school? What if they panic – as I do – at the thought of their youngster waiting for them? Or, perhaps, they are rushing to the hospital to visit a friend between appointments in their busy day. They are really trying to fulfill this mitzvah in an already busy day.
Regardless what the truth may or may not be, I try to leave the moment with positive energy rather than negative.
In the book Guard Your Anger, a reference from the Talmud is made regarding Rav Chiya. It was known that Rav Chiya’s wife was not the nicest of people. She was said to “cause him trouble”, yet Rav Chiya always stopped to pick up gifts for his wife. When others would approach him to inquire why he was so kind to her, his answer was “Dayeinu”. Enough. It was enough for Rav Chiya that his wife took great care of his children and rescued him from sin. Rav Chiya was able to keep his perspective focused on the positive elements she brought to his life.
Sometimes, our worlds become so overwhelming that we neglect to give attention to the things we should be focusing on. When two friends come to me complaining about the same issue from different viewpoints, it is clear to me – the objective listener – that their joint effort could accomplish the need each of them would like fulfilled. But, because the pathways to the outcome of their problem have been defined differently, they feel like opposing forces.
Who are we to judge someone else’s choices, decisions or perspectives? As annoying as they may be, cliché’s contain deep layers of truth if you take the time to properly consider them. “Do not judge another unless you’ve walked in her shoes” is truly a lesson with deep meaning.
As I listen to the crisis of a dear friend, I am careful to set my judgments or opinions aside. I understand – as I watch my thoughts – that I only know what I’m hearing and what I think she is experiencing and what I, myself, am experiencing. There is an entire component of this situation that I am unable to grasp – the experience of going through it myself.
The faith of Judaism runs rampant with messages of honor, respect, helping and caring for others. We can widen the breath of our soul by considering alternative perspectives in our interactions with others and hesitating before passing judgment.
May each of our days this year be filled with less judgment, more compassion and deep empathy for others.