Dan scurried about, searching for his homework. The bus would be arriving any minute and if he wasn’t ready, his mother would be furious.
“Where did I leave that notebook?” he whispered to himself. “Come on, Dan, you’re not so dumb — or are you?”
Then the horn of the bus beeped.
“Dan, let’s go,” Mom yelled from downstairs. “Your bus is waiting!”
“I’m coming!” Dan said. “I can’t find my homework but I’ll be down in a minute.”
“What’s the matter with you, Dan Goldman?” Mom said. “Is there something wrong with you? You’re always forgetting where you put things. If your head wasn’t attached to your shoulders, you’d lose that, too!”
Dan left for school feeling down and upset.
Everyone is blessed with different strong points and burdened with a variety of weaknesses. No two people enter the world with exactly the same personality package. Like physical variations in agility and strength, mental capacities also differ from one to another. This obvious observation is easily understood; however, it rarely affects the reaction of others to an individual’s weaknesses.
If someone is clumsy or forgetful, slow moving or in some other way weaker than average, it’s important that others react with tolerance and understanding. Labeling the shortcoming with negative terms increases the negative effect on the person’s performance. Self-confidence and self-esteem are damaged by harsh criticism.
The Torah way is to suggest positive ways to minimize the weakness. There are methods to compensate for human shortcomings. For example, a poor memory can be compensated for by making lists and setting alarms. Your reaction should be to suggest corrective measures. It’s always better to correct than to destroy.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
Every individual is given liberty. If he wants to turn himself towards a good path and be righteous, the power is in his hands; and if he wants to turn himself toward the path of evil, the power is in his hands…Man is unique in this world… that he on his own, with his knowledge and thoughts, will know good and evil…and there is nobody who will prevent him from doing good or evil. (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, “Laws of Repentance,” 5:1)