- Appraise Thyself!
- Rivka Olenick
- The best and most effective way to ensure spiritual growth is honest
self-appraisal. It is very easy to avoid this task, especially when we
can use the excuse that life now is so uncertain so "why
bother." To the contrary, this is exactly why one should be
involved in on going self-appraisal. The important questions a person
should ask oneself is: Do I know myself? Am I living my life according
to the purpose I was created for? These are the most essential
questions and very often never asked. If each Jewish person understood
themself, understood that they were created for a specific purpose
they would have a great sense of emotional freedom. No one would be an
emotional slave, so to speak.
- Most people suffer from a continuous need for approval from others.
This need for approval could be diminished if one understood that this
need for approval is our biggest enemy. Very few people escape this,
but only because a person does not make the effort to appraise
oneself. We put great effort in pursuing most everything else in life
i.e. career, money, etc. but how much effort does a person invest in
the self? Once a person finds the courage to do this, one begins to
see their flaws, and they can make an honest attempt to change.
- Many people are locked into patterns and do not believe they can
change. "This is who I am!" Other people's flaws bother them
terribly but their own they easily rationalize. Even one small change
in thinking can evolve into a large successful breakthrough that can
continue. A person's intense desire for material gain would begin to
diminish if one understood that endless material gain is really based
on the need of approval from others. The more one has the more one
becomes the envy of those around him. Except that this is all a trap
that people spend a lifetime in. This person is truly a slave, because
he lives entirely for other's approval.
- The appropriate investment in the self and in God is not being made
and unfortunately even missed altogether. So what is the point of
life? What does the person really gain in life? In truth, the person
that has much less is really more satisfied. If one honestly accepts
their lot in life then he/she can really see the good in their life. A
person can see that they have what they need to sustain oneself and
family. One has faith and trust that God will continue to provide
since God has provided for one's needs so far.
- In having less a person should truly rejoice because God has given
him/her the easier path - "Marbeh nichasim, marbeh daageh",
"increase in possession increases anxiety." (Ethics of the
Fathers).The path that provides greater peace of mind, one does not
lose sleep because of overwhelming responsibility and the need to
follow the crowd in false security. Understanding this honestly is
really a blessing. Think about it, how much do you really need above
your basic needs? Of course, each person has to recognize this truth
instead of denying it. A person has to really see it, one should force
oneself to see it, instead of complaining that they are deprived, that
others have so much more and why has God done this to me?
- Unfortunately, we are steeped in a culture that is based on endless
acquisition and pleasure. However, even this is not an excuse because
if one thinks into this honestly, one realizes that the error one made
is in not placing their security in God, but placing one's security in
"things." The more things a person has, the more approval
they will get from others and the more approval they will continue to
need from others. This is really a "false" sense of security
yet it can easily become a lifelong vicious cycle. This is what
happens if a person misuses one's true gift of freedom. The true gift
of freedom was given to each of us as the real purpose of our life.
The gift is to serve the Creator, not man and not one's ego. After
all, it is God Who created the world and the human being; so doesn't
it make sense that God would know better how the human being should
live? Hasn't God provide us with a way in which to live?
- Every person should make the decision to work hard on appraising
themselves in order to free themselves so that they can serve God.
"Everything is in the hands of God, except for the fear of
God." (Talmud in Berachos, 33b). God allowed you to live up until
this point in time and so one's future lies in God's hands and also in
our own. How we decide to live our life from this point on is up to
us. Meaning, that we can participate in remolding our future by using
our free will and choosing a way of life that brings the greatest
advantage and freedom. The freedom to serve God is the ultimate
freedom. It requires no approval from others. Those who claim they can
tell your future by reading your palm or your handwriting or by any
other way is total nonsense. There is the path of truth and there is
the path of fantasy. Do you want to live in reality, and discover the
great truths that lie in God's universe or do you want to continue to
live in your own little, safe fantasy world?
- "Close each day with a self-examination to see if you've gone
forward or backward. Don't excuse yourself in anything and tell
yourself that tomorrow you will make a greater effort. Let everyone
see one's own reflection in the Torah and learn from it what one
should have been and how one should have acted, with one's capacities
and one's resources and powers, in this and that environment, in this
and that time and place." Samson Raphael Hirsch, from Horeb.