By H. David Burstein January 2011
Several years ago I wrote an article entitled “The Pain in Being Comfortable. It focused on the idea that if we get too used to our comforts we may not challenge ourselves to grow.
I have to come to realize that the opposite also stifles our spirit. For many, there is a “Comfort in Being Painful.
Many of us can get stuck in patterns or behaviors of negativity, that while they afford the comfort of predictability, lack of responsibility and victimhood status, they will lead to sadness.
Judaism evolved to teach the opposite. The only ritual in the 10 Commandments is the remembering and observing the Sabbath. And the reason given is clear. From Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15 we are remembering that God created the world and He took us out of Egypt, the house of bondage. When God is speaking to the Israelite nation, he addresses everyone in the second person singular, “I took you (the individual) out of Egypt.
Implicit to this is the understanding that God wants us to be free. In his book “The 10 Commandments David Hazony presents God as a redeemer. Egypt in Hebrew is “Mitzrayim the narrow place. God is there to take us out of the narrow states of being that are holding us back.
In the book of Exodus, when the Jews were having a hard time in the desert, there was a lot of complaining, saying that it was better to be a slave.
External slavery still does exist, but for the most part, we are slaves to those aspects of our nature and personality that prevent us from moving ourselves forward.
Another aspect of Jewish philosophy is found in Genesis 1:26, where God says “Let us make man in our image. I was taught that He was talking to the animals and the idea that man was to be created with characteristics of animals and of God. Since God is invisible, we are endowed with qualities that we cannot see.
During the High Holidays we ask God to forgive us of our sins. It is geared not only for recognizing and dealing with moral actions. For those we need to make amends with people. We ask God forgiveness for those sins we commit in being flawed human beings. At the end of Yom Kippur, we feel refreshed having been given a clean slate.
Like God, people have to be able to forgive others for their imperfections. If a person is contrite, there comes a point where if we are unable to forgive that person, the problem is with ourselves, and we have to recognize that we are actually a slave to our inability to forgive.
What are we so angry about that we are unable to forgive someone? Why are we not able to let go of the anger?
On the other hand, some people are unable to realize how angry they actually are.
Part of it may occur because of a pattern of behavior that led to a slow growth of anger.
We all have had traumatic or semi-traumatic events or processes that can get us on negative paths. I liken it to wearing improperly fitting shoes. What is the difference in being rubbed the wrong way that results in a blister or a callus? With the blister, while being more obviously and immediately painful it can be dealt with and have no long lasting effects. But the callus will act insidiously. It allows us to continue to function, but in the long term can become thicker such that one day we are walking with a limp.
While some will deny the limp, for those who can recognize it, there are different ways to respond. Some will deny the existence of the callus. Others may recognize the callus but displace the repressed limp (anger) on a vulnerable person in their life.
Or do we try to deal with unpeeling the layers of the callus? That usually requires professional help, often is a painful process and cannot be done quickly.
There is a passive aggressiveness to not being able to forgive that has a sanctimonious nature to it. We can continue to blame the other for our woes and pretend to be better than them.
But this defense mechanism can not last. Happiness is pursued, it will not come to us if we play defense our whole lives.
The need for forgiveness not only applies to our relationship with others. We need to be able to be able to forgive ourselves. We need to parent ourselves.
In Jewish folklore it is claimed that after death, we are asked 3 questions: Did you conduct your business affairs ethically? Did you spend time to hasten the Messiah? Why did you not partake in all the allowed pleasures of life?
If we are unable to forgive the imperfections of ourselves or others, we are failing to partake in the biggest pleasure of all, that of being free to pursue a happy life.
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