Some people wonder what it means to be accepting, especially in a frum community. Don’t we have standards and beliefs that we need to defend and maintain in our community?
Here is my take: To me, it simply means not walking around trying to fix people. I simply don’t try to fix people, I’ve been focused on stopping to do that. I think moving away from religion for a minute will help clarify this.
Here’s a real life example: Last night, I came home and after speaking to my wife asked her if she paid our library fines that I had asked her to do and that we really need to do so that it doesn’t affect our credit.
She told me that she went to the library but that no one was able to help her pay at their new electronic kiosks and that Lev was going crazy and pulling all the books of the shelves (he does this at home A LOT).
Right away, I tried to fix the situation and to fix her in a sense. I said, “Well, why couldn’t you just wait till someone could help you? Maybe you could have given Lev a bottle, and maybe do that next time? I know it’s hard for you but we really need to do this and I’m in school all day and get back only after the library closes and WE REALLY NEED TO DO THIS!”
That didn’t go over so well. I went outside and reflected on this exchange as I often do when things don’t go as I planned, in order to learn from it.
Here is what I discovered: I was trying to fix her, my own wife! Wow. Isn’t that crazy? I wasn’t listening at all. I was only listening to get my turn to talk to point out HOW MUCH THIS NEEDS TO BE DONE and why can’t she just do this one thing …blah blah blah….
Instead I came back and said, “Ok tell me again what happened, and this time I’m actually listening.” And I discovered that my wife had had a bit of a tough day, had spent an hour in the library trying to do this, even though she has work and school deadlines coming up, then had gone to a Jewish store to buy Lev shoes where the customer service was epicly bad, legendarily so.
And I thought, wow there is so much going on here. And I was just present and available to her, to see her as she is, not as I want her to be.
And that is acceptance to me. You know something, it’s so crazy how we behave sometimes. I go to shul without a kappote sometimes and without a tallis sometimes (for various reasons) on Shabbas. And so many people will see me in shul shabbas morning learning, and try to fix me, either by giving me a wierd vibe, look or even saying something in a half joking way. They are totally not present to me, they are trying to fix me and correct me, set me on the right path. And it is so unreal, so inauthentic, so lacking in any sort of genuine camaraderie.
Maybe they think they can really fix me, maybe they feel a religious obligation to fix me, maybe they think they’re just helping me overcome what they see as apathy or laziness and its not a big deal, maybe they feel like by fixing me they can feel better about themselves, maybe its easier to fix others than it is to fix yourselves – but one thing I know: IT HAS TO GO.
There is a place to help others overcome obstacles in their life. I personally have almost never seen it happen in a authentic healthy way, the rare exceptions are a few farbrengens I was privileged to take part in with shofar graduates who really REALLY did not think that my doing things wrongly makes ME wrong in any way. They truly saw me as I am without any need to fix or correct me. Instead they heard me say what I was struggling with, and offered me ideas and experiences from their life that resonate to what I was going through. And just that raw authenticity of sharing where they struggle with this and what they’ve done was incredibly transformative. And by the by, they shared of themselves with literally no idea or expectation that it would help me, nor did they think they knew something I didn’t, nor did they think they had mastered this.
The irony is that if frum people stopped trying to fix other frum people, there would be much less need to fix anyone!
Have a great shabbas you all