One-year-old Deborah sat on the carpet playing with assorted toys. She seemed to be enjoying a world of her own.
Deborah’s mother turned to her sister and said, “She’s getting so cute. It seems like every day she comes up with something new.”
“I know,” the aunt said. “The next few months she’ll be learning new things every day and she’ll give you a lot of nachat (pleasure). I honestly believe Hashem made our little ones so cute so that we’d have patience for their sleepless nights, teething pain and numerous trips to the doctor’s office.”
“Watch this,” the young mother said. “How big is Deborah?”
Baby Deborah immediately responded by throwing both arms above her head and smiling. The two adults applauded and laughed approvingly. Moments later, after attention was drawn away from Deborah by a conversation about something a little more adult and a lot more serious, Deborah — without being prompted — threw her arms above her head again and smiled. Again, the two adults reacted with applause and a smile. When they returned to their more serious conversation, the baby tried her “trick” once more. This time she was ignored. After several failed attempts to get attention with her “so big” performance, the frustrated little one started crying.
When one is dependent on the approval of others in order to be happy with oneself, one is in effect a “slave” to those whose approval one seeks. Rabbi Avraham Shag, teacher of Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, said, “There’s no greater fool than one who makes his happiness based on receiving honor and approval… Only a fool would knowingly and willingly put himself in a situation where he will constantly be in need of others… (HaIsh al HaChomah, vol. 2, p. 17)
Declare your independence! Satisfy your standards, not those of others — and you’ll feel happy and fulfilled.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
It is normal for every person to have his ups and downs. Someone devoted to studying Torah and to spiritual growth should especially be aware that everyone goes through periods when he feels he is not growing. This knowledge should greatly decrease the feelings of discouragement and unhappiness that accompany those days. (Alei Shur, pp. 34–5)