It is important to perform self-evaluation on a regular basis. The Rabbis suggest that when reciting the bedtime Shema, we should say Viduy — confession — as we do in our prayers. We should, at the same time, consider the day’s events and examine our behavior to see if there might be a transgression of which we are aware that is not listed in the general Viduy formula. For most, the list of potential sins would include doing something forbidden or perhaps failing to perform one of the Torah’s commandments. Rambam, however, says (Hilchot Teshuvah 7:3) that we must also repent for flaws in character such as being stingy, cruel or short tempered.
There are some who are meticulous in study of Torah and performance of mitzvot who may, at times, lose their temper. They excuse such flare-ups with “Not my fault! I was created with a short fuse and sometimes I lose it!”
True, it’s the way they were made, but it’s false that there’s nothing they can do about it.
Everyone’s nature is different, but we are all expected to improve our character day by day and to deal with our personality weaknesses. We are required to repent even for wrongdoing that “comes naturally.” In addition to regret, we must work on building defenses against future repetition of character-based misbehavior. Anger, for example, stems from thoughts and attitudes which we have the ability to control through study and practice of calming techniques.
Got a temper? Work on “losing it”!
One More Second: Another Thought for the Day
A person who excessively keeps his thoughts on his physical needs will overlook his spiritual needs. But be careful not to react in the opposite extreme. Do not deprive the body of its basic needs, for then it will become weak and both your body and your soul will suffer. Make sure not to go to either extreme. Do not indulge your body excessively and do not deprive it of its needs. (Chovot HaLevavot, Chapter 8: “Shaar Cheshbon HaNefesh,” 25)
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.