Eliyahu Hanavi, disguised as a peasant, once encountered a fisherman spreading his nets.
“Do you learn Torah every day?” the prophet inquired.
“No,” the fisherman responded, “I’m not really blessed with enough intelligence to learn successfully.”
“I see,” the prophet said. “May I ask where you purchased your nets?”
“I don’t buy them,” the fisherman explained. “I take flax and spin it into strong ropes. Then I tie knots, creating a net with holes that are big enough to allow small fish to escape and small enough to trap the bigger, more valuable fish. I’ve learned which are the best times to spread my nets in order to maximize my catch. In fact, I’m one of the more successful fishermen in this area.”
“Your own mouth contradicts your opinion that you don’t have the intelligence to learn Torah,” the prophet said.
One of the lessons of this story is that a person’s self-image can discourage effort and prevent success. There are many who feel they are not smart enough or rich enough or talented enough to achieve. When encouraged to embark on a productive task, they reject the opportunity for growth and success with the phrase “I’m not so …” If one views oneself as not capable of achieving, one will avoid the disappointment and embarrassment of failure by rejecting opportunities.
Parents, teachers and managers can prompt the success of those in their charge with encouraging words that create self-worth. “Not so…” can easily become “I am so…” if positive words of praise are used to create confidence. Constructive words have the power to build.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
“Charity saves from death” (Mishlei 11:4) because the person who applies his strength and resources to reviving the poor sets in motion the dynamics that bring him renewed life as well. For any Jew, no matter what his strengths or personality traits, charity is the key that unlocks the forces of life.
Rabbi Fishel Schachter, Chofetz Chaim: Loving Kindness: Daily Lessons in the Power of Giving, p. 213.