For an enlarged, easier to read index click here . To "google search" this site, scroll to the bottom of this page. (This site is best viewed with "Firefox")

(Tips: F11 key enables full screen viewing & Ctrl-F to search the index)


CHIZUK-----know thyself

N Posted - 20 April 2001 15:02

What does it mean for a person to know who they are?

I have heard ppl criticize others for not knowing who they are. Yet isn't it true that no one completely knows themselves? Some ppl may know themselves better than others, but does anyone completely know themselves?

What does it mean to know yourself? And if you don’t completely know yourself, how do you go about getting to know yourself?

MODERATOR Posted - 20 April 2001 16:46

Maybe a person can't completely know himself. But he can know himself better than anyone else can. Rav Chaim Volozhen ZT"L writes this on the Mishna in Avos "Marbeh Etzah Marbeh Sevunah" - that no matter how wise your advice-giver may be, he still doesn’t know you as well as you do. Therefore, you should seek an array of advice from different people who are wiser than you, but then you must decide, on your own, based on what you know about yourself, what to do.

Rav Shach shlita proves from Chazal that even what Neviim may not know about you, you can still know about yourself.

To know yourself takes time. First, you have to commit yourself to accept yourself for whatever you may be. If you begin your journey or self-exploration with a pre-conceived conclusion, you will only end up fooling yourself.

The default value of a person is to know themselves. It's outside influences that confuse us and throw us off. Influences like the desire the "follow the crowd", or to accept society's values and views as your own.

Example: Rashi, explaining a Germora in Brachos says that Hashem put a natural tendency for a certain professions in the hearts of certain people, even low and grubby professions, such as tannery, which involved working in a disgustingly smelly place working the hides of animals. It was considered something like what a sewer worker is today.

But Hashem needed tanners, it says, so He put in the hearts of certain people a natural tendency to working in a tannery. The Chovos Halevovos says this as well, in different words.

But did you ever hear of anyone who ever said they want to grow up to be a tanner? A garbage man? If a kid would say he wants to grow up to be a sewer cleaner they’d send him to the shrinks. "Success" today is defined by societal standards, not by fulfillment of individual potential.

To know yourself you have to distance yourself from what society tells you you are. Self-knowledge involves more than anything else, getting in touch with that voice inside you. When people ask "How can I know myself?" they really mean "Help me hear that voice inside me." People mistakenly think that they have to find the volume button to make the voice louder, or to learn whatever language the voice is speaking in, because as it is they have no idea what it's saying.

But the real reason they cant hear the voice is because its drowned out by the tons of other voices coming from society, friends, etc. The way to hear the voice inside you is to block out the other voices. Then you'll see that you understand your inner voice loud and clear.

Spend some time regularly with yourself. Notice I didn’t say "by yourself," but rather "with" yourself. One of the great tragedies of today's lifestyle is that we always need something to occupy our time. If we're alone we immediately "need" something to do or we get bored. So we end up not knowing how to enjoy time with ourselves. We end up by ourselves as opposed to with ourselves.

So we have to practice getting what’s called "yishuv hadaas". Separate ourselves from the helter skelter lifestyles that people lead and slow down a bit so we can think.

Rav Hutner once saw Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, who was then a student of Rav Hutner, carrying a sefer. He asked what sefer it was, and Rabbi Freifeld showed him it was "Seder Hayom", a certain Mussar sefer.

Rav Hutner asked him "How far do you live from the L train?"

"Its around the corner," Rabbi Freifeld said. "Why?"

"How often do you hear it pass by?" the Rosh Yeshiva asked him.

"About every 15 minutes" he answered.

"Well, if you hear the train pass by every 15 minutes then that sefer is not for you!", the Rosh Yeshiva told him.

In order to become self-aware, we need Yishuv Hadaas. If we have a train interrupting our thoughts every 15 minutes it kills our Yishuv Hadaas. But its not only "physical" train noise that messes up our Musar-absorbing ability, but the general "noise" of society. We cant understand ourselves if were always distracted by being busy all day.

So if you want to know yourself, if you want to hear the inner voice telling you who you are, you’ve got to slow down, rescue your head from the rush-rush-lets-find-something-to-do attitude of contemporary life, and release your mind from its slavery to societal expectations.

And then spend some time with your newly found friend. Namely, yourself. And you'll be surprised how much that new friend has to say to you that you never knew before...

N Posted - 25 April 2001 17:26

Thank you for your response. It was really beautiful and quite helpful.
Just a few questions...

1) You wrote that the 1st step in knowing yourself is to accept yourself the way you are. However, if I don’t want to remain the way I am, and I am hoping to change from who I presently am, should I still accept myself the way I am now? Wouldn't that just be reinforcing traits that I want to get rid of?

2)How do we know what to block out and distance ourselves from in the world around us? Granted, there are a lot of crazy things out there that are distracting us from things we should be concentrating on, but if we block our surroundings out, we will miss many beautiful things and people in the way. So how do we know where to make the boundaries?

3) When you do spend time "with yourself" what exactly are you trying to understand? What questions should you be asking yourself in order to be able to say that you "know who you are" or that you are working in that direction?

4) Until we get to a point where we do "know ourselves" how do we know what derech to pursue? If we don’t know ourselves, how do we know who our mentors, teachers and Rabbeim are who can most suit us?

Thank you very much!

MODERATOR Posted - 25 April 2001 18:06

1) Growing doesn’t "change" you, it fulfills you. So if you’re lets say a little sapling and I tell you to accept yourself for what you are, I don’t mean not to grow into a big tree. I mean to accept yourself as currently being a sapling with the potential - and destiny - to be a big tree. Your growing powers are also part of you. If you fulfill them you don’t "change", you progress. On the contrary, if you remain a sapling or regress to the level of a pit, then you changed - since you used to be a growing, dynamic entity and now you’re a static entity with no destiny left.

Also, there are parts of you that can "grow" - those are called "Midos". There are other parts of you, called "techunos", that cannot be changed. Those are like personality traits, such as being very calm or excitable. They can be used for good or for bad. They just have to be channeled correctly.

Then there are the parts of you that aren’t you at all - but rather the Yetzer Horah. That’s the part of you that wants dark and bad things. DO NOT FALL INTO THE TRAP OF CONFUSING THE YETZER HORAH with "you".

So accepting yourself means knowing what can be changed, what cant, what your potential is, and what your best shot is at reaching it.

2)"Blocking out" the world doesn’t mean ignoring it - though there are some things in it that should be ignored. Rather, what it means is that you should be able to recognize what’s stupid, what useless, what’s artificial, what’s real, what’s good, etc. It means, as the Posuk says, "chacham ainav b'rosho". Then, when you recognize a value as undesirable, you will not accept it. You will not do things just because the crowd does them, you will not think things because everyone thinks them, and you will not know just because "everyone knows". You will be aware of what is going on, but you will choose what to accept.

3) You’re not really trying to understand anything. The understanding kind of comes by itself. Its natural for a person to know himself. Our artificial lifestyle just inhibits that. Trying to understand yourself this way is like trying to go to sleep. The harder you "try" the less you’ll succeed. You just gotta lay there, remove all distractions, get yourself comfortable, and let it come. If you remove all disturbances from your mind, you’ll end up hearing that inside voice by yourself. its always there, you just gotta get rid of the background noise.

4) They have to come at the same time. You have to find a mentor that suits your current needs. But you have to know what those needs are. As you grow, you will discover more and more about yourself, and perhaps outgrow your previous mentors.

yummer101 Posted - 10 May 2001 14:36

what if you don’t like what you find?

MODERATOR Posted - 10 May 2001 17:59

Then you haven’t looked hard enough.

Check this out: If what you don’t like is s/t you cannot change, there’s no reason not to like it. Hashem made you like that, and everything hashem does is for the best. If Hashem did it, then it's the best in the world. If you cant see that, we're missing something. There is no such thing as a person with an intrinsically "bad" personality. All seemingly such personalities are meant to be used for good, but the person doesn’t see that.

If it's your choices that you are upset about, then welcome to the world of human beings! Understand that you have a Yetzer Horah and at times, he wins the battle. If you don’t like that, you’re actually winning the war, because if you'd be losing the war you wouldn’t care.

So the fact that you don’t like what you’re doing is your biggest weapon to help you grow. The more you don’t like what you see, the stronger you are.

From there, you just need some guidance and motivation, and when the dust clears you'll have won the war for sure. You can definitely do it. But the Yetzer's biggest weapon is smoke and mirrors. He makes a lot of noise for you to think he has this big powerful army that you have no chance against, cuz you’re so weak.

But the truth is you can win. So many people just like you do. You just gotta know the battlefield you're fighting on.

Meaning, you gotta know how to win, but that you can win is not a question.

For the "how", that’s what you need someone to help you for. Each step of the way.

No comments: