Some people cannot hear of another’s achievements without mentioning their own triumphs in the same area. If a student finishes a course with a good grade, the other will tell how s/he actually scored higher in that course. If someone sold raffles for a charity, another will tell of his/her greater success at selling raffles. If one’s spouse or child did well in an endeavor, this type of person is quick to “just by the way” mention his/her family member’s achievements. The game of life for such a person is a constant string of “Good — but I did better” conversations.
Even in the realm of the difficult, they try to prove that their experience was more trying than the one that another is describing. If someone spent two hours in the doctor’s office, you can be sure that they’ll mention the longer wait they experienced. If someone’s children kept them up “half the night,” you’ll be sure to hear they were up “all night.”
The cause of this type of response is probably selfishness. “The world is all about me” is the translation of all these statements. The one who initiates the conversation was looking for sympathy or understanding, but selfish individuals always inject their own experience. Because they care only about themselves, they don’t open their ears or their hearts to another’s success or even another’s woes. Rather than deliver the emotional salve their friend was seeking, they reduce the other’s statement to “unimportant.” They respond with something about themselves because that’s what they consider the whole of life.
If you catch yourself “not listening,” open your heart and your ears will follow.
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
The virtue of fixing time for Torah study is realized when the appointed time for one’s study is never exchanged or obviated. Even if a person has a huge business and he has an opportunity to earn a lot of money during the fixed time, he will not be concerned and he will not change his mind for any reason to abandon his set time. G-d will compensate him, and those who seek G-d will not lack any good. (Rabbi Eliezer Papo, Pele Yoetz, “Kevius — Fixed Time”)
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, Sephardic Press, 2008.