William Hamilton

Supersize your better moments

“You seem to be letting that hang around in your head a little long,” my son recently told me. We were around the kitchen table, trying to enjoy some Friday night conversation. But earlier that week somebody had made a rude, kick-in-the-gut comment. I’d failed to respond to it, and this had really gotten under my skin. My son’s point was spot on. The incident had happened on Tuesday and I was still obsessing about it. 

Not all face-to-face contact is better than online communication. More often than not, thanks to the feedback you get from reading the creases and gestures on somebody’s face, in-person interactions are going to be more helpful. But they’re also going to be more lasting.

And stewing about some three-day-old hurt wasn’t doing me any good. My obsessing over the hurt was actually supersizing it.

For a more productive way to process troubling interactions, let’s learn a lesson from this week’s portion of Torah, where we meet Joseph. His early life is defined by low points. His infuriated brothers toss him into a pit. His resistance to the sexual advances of the wife of the Egyptian leader Potiphar, land him in a dungeon-prison. 

Yet he rises. Somehow, when he is lowest he doesn’t obsess. Instead he finds spiritual strength he never knew he had. The chapter when he is most vulnerable to going astray contains eight mentions of God’s proper Name (Adonai) (Gen. 39). Eight is a number that is going to glow brightly in the coming week as we celebrate Hanukkah. One light reaches to a second, then to a third, and onward. Bright moments can be especially lasting. 

How then do we make better times stickier than bad ones? Consider the following three steps. 1) Journal what happened. And hold nothing back when you record the feelings you experienced. 2) Obsess about it with someone who will help you get to some takeaway that will benefit you. Next time you’ll say x or y instead of keeping quiet. Try to recall that adversity is worsened when it’s wasted. Try to make sure you get some good use out of a bad experience. 3) Make the takeaway lesson the thing that lasts. Make your recovery the stickiest part of the ordeal. 

Make your rebounds indelible. Rather than holding on to the hurt, supersize your ability to bounce back. Make it a keepsake for faith-keeping. 

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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