INSIGHT OUT by Adina Morris
Last week, I attended a class by Menachem Leibtag, where the speaker turned my attention to something about human nature that makes so much sense, yet I never thought about before. And even more so, now that I know it, I can understand others a little better, and treat them with a little more patience and kindness.
You may be wondering to whom I refer? Well, really to teenagers, but more so to all people.
You see, what I learned is that humans are born with an evil inclination. And even as a baby grows and matures, it will still not develop the moral muscle of choosing good over evil for many years to come! That is why we can never really blame little babies or even young children when they misbehave, because they don’t know any better! More so, the speaker quoted from the parsha that after the flood, Hashem said he would never again destroy the world because of man’s misdeeds, as they are born with an evil inclination. It is hard for them to fight it, and it takes time for them to build up the stamina to withstand it’s strong pull. The good news is, the speaker went on to say, is that with effort, man can overcome his evil inclination.
But what happens when that child grows up? In their teenage years, do they really not know the difference between good and bad? This is where the epiphany came in! The speaker pointed out that the Torah compared the world at the time of the flood to a Naar, a youth. And just as teenagers are still growing, and even early young adults are still growing, they are still not making good choices all or even most of the time. It is not that they don’t know the difference between good and evil, rather it is that it is still difficult for them to make the right choice. However, what is wonderful about how Hashem made us is that we can get better at making good choices and stronger at fighting off our evil inclination. It doesn’t happen on its own though. We need to make it happen.
It is kind of like athletes in training. Originally, they have no muscle or stamina. As they begin to train, they slowly build it up. But it takes time, patience and perseverance. It does not happen overnight. And they will not win all their games or races right away or even in the first few years. But slowly over time, they will start to see success and win more often than not. As long as they put in the hours, effort and do the heavy lifting.
Each of us goes through life battling this evil inclination that has been with us since birth. Some days we do better than others, but mostly, we are all just human, trying to fight the good fight.
What was added insight, although, I have known this for some time, as I see it with my coaching clients all the time, is the following: We each have in our nature things that are easy for us and things that are hard for us. When we actively try to make better choices about the things that are hard for us, we can succeed. Slowly over time, we will find that the thing that was once hard for us, has become easier and easier to do. We just need to keep practicing and as the old saying goes, fake it until you make it. It’s really not fake at all, because this is who you really want to be. You’re just not there yet;)
This little window of understanding helps me to understand teenagers as they are very me-centric and often make very poor choices. But even more so it helps me recognize that we are all still growing and that we all learn and grow at our own pace. The key is that we try. We put one foot in front of the other and we try to do things a little bit better each time. Because we can change and improve ourselves. Even our rough and toughest spots can be made smooth and beautiful. And those teenagers? We can help them by modeling the good fight ourselves, every day.
So put a little elbow grease into your day and try a little harder, be a little more thoughtful and fight the good fight. And remember, when someone else messes up, they’re just trying to fight the good fight too. They need your support to help them stand up and try again, not get pushed down because of their failure. Just like Hashem has given the world that support. Rock your world!