Minute #636: You’re Not Good/I’m Not Good

A key element to spiritual success is the ability to correct and even erase misdeeds through the process of teshuvah — repentance. A person who realizes that s/he has committed a transgression is expected to feel sincere remorse. After verbally confessing the sin, s/he must then resolve never to repeat the wrongdoing. The sincerity of the person will determine to what degree our Creator will accept and forgive.

There is a built-in difficulty, however, due to the way the human being was designed. Our Sages teach that one cannot discern one’s own faults (Vayikra Rabbah 15:8). Seeing what’s wrong with another is easy, but realizing that one’s own behavior is flawed is nearly impossible. How can one correct something about which one is unaware? If the first step — recognizing the sin — is impossible, is the gift of teshuvah impracticable?

Our Sages provide a clue as to how one can discern one’s own flaws. “One who invalidates another, does so in regard to one’s own defects” (Kiddushin 70a). If one criticizes another, one should suspect that s/he suffers from the same flaw that is being criticized. Seeing laziness in someone else might indicate that the one who recognizes that weakness in another suffers from the same trait of indolence. If one is bothered by another’s boisterous behavior, one should do a volume check on one’s own manners. Perhaps if he’s not okay, neither are you. A window allows one to see what is going on outside and a mirror is useful in fixing oneself. When you see another’s failings, convert your window on the world into a mirror of yourself and begin the corrective process of self-improvement.

One More Second: Another Thought for the Day

To feel joy when you perform a mitzvah, focus on how much joy you would have if you were to find a large sum of money. As you continue to think of how much more you gain by performing good deeds, you will begin to feel more and more joy in the performance of those good deeds. (Pele Yoetz: “Simchah”)