People interact with others in many different situations and in various manners. Character traits drive a person to act in certain ways towards others. Some people are generous and others are stingy. Some are calm and pleasant while others are short tempered and annoying. These internal forces can prompt various behavior patterns in a variety of social circumstances.
Yet there are external drives that aren’t based on how one feels but rather on how one is treated by others. These outside circumstances can be even more powerful in determining behavior than traits. King Solomon said: “As in water, face answers face, so does the heart of man to man” (Mishlei 27:19). The Malbim (loc. cit.) points out that the parts of the body that receive blood pumped from the heart return the same blood back to the heart. What the heart gives is what it gets back. People also react to the face of others. The way you treat others is how they’ll treat you.
If someone is not treating you the way you’d like, a foolproof strategy is to act toward them in the manner you’d like to be treated. If you’re friendly and giving to others, King Solomon promises that they will reflect your behavior towards them back to you. It might not be an instantaneous transformation, but drops of water on a stone can cut a hole through the rock. Repetition and consistency will yield positive results.
Married couples are primary targets for trait-driven behavior patterns. Becoming familiar with one’s spouse allows one to be oneself — which isn’t always good for the relationship. It pays to “act” nice. A good performance will yield applause.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
What’s the difference between mourning and sadness? Mourning takes over the heart but not the mind while sadness takes hold of one’s mind. Mourning leads to thinking, while sadness hinders thought. Mourning’s source is the light of one’s soul while sadness comes from darkness in the soul. Mourning arouses one to life while sadness has the opposite effect. The Torah dictates mourning when it’s appropriate and forbids sadness — rather, it commands that one serve Hashem with joy. (Harav Moshe Rosenstein, Ahavat Meisharim, p. 185)
Rabbi Raymond Beyda serves in the Sephardic Community in Brooklyn, N.Y. He lectures to audiences all over the world. He has distributed over 500,000 recorded lessons free of charge. He is author of the book 1 Minute With Yourself: A Minute a Day to Self-Improvement.