“We need to develop a conscience that does not permit us to wrong, harm or hurt someone even if the rules permit us to do so. The moral life is an infinite game which cannot be reduced to rules. We need to learn and internalize a sense of ‘the right and the good.” – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Lately, I have spent a lot of time talking about the concept and difference between action and intention, and wrong versus right, and while I could go on in discussing and debating these topics at length, I feel that the above quote perfectly summarizes my feeling about our purpose here on Earth. Like Rabbi Sacks, I similarly believe that our true purpose is to treat all mankind with the love and kindness that we would wish to be treated, and this is what I strive to do on a daily basis.
On a personal level, I have been grappling with questions surrounding my personal Jewish pride. To me, it is obvious that if I was asked to denounce God, or be put to death, that I would choose not to denounce God, and willingly accept my death. In that regard, my beliefs and stance are absolute– however, when it comes to wearing my Judaism on my sleeve on a regular basis, whether that be in my observance level, or just my personal pride in being a Jew, in comparison, it does not always shine as bright.
I believe that the answer is simple: When the gesture is grand, when it is heroic, or when it is seen by many– or for that matter, seen by myself as heroic– it is easy for me to do, as the gesture itself serves to boost my ego. However, it is when the gesture is quiet, and the receiving party is unaware that they are about to even receive a gift, that the true magic happens. This is when ego is removed from the equation– kind acts solely for the purpose of performing kind acts, if you will– but the downside is that we do not receive that litle jolt that is inherently derived from immediate ego gratification.
While I am intimately familiar with my own personal struggles surrounding this conundrum, I am not at all certain that you do as well– so, if you find that this applies to you, I would love to hear your feedback. How do you hold yourself accountable to performing kind acts, even when the gratification is delayed and not immediate? And for that matter, how do you cope with it when your gesture does not register the ‘thank you’ you are looking and hoping for, and you don’t get that positive jolt or bang to go along with it?
Ultimately, I think that it is really the small gestures that serve to create connection. Huge gestures go off with more of a bang, and as a result, the receiving party– even if that party is yourself– does not always know how to repay that, or does not know how to reciprocate, or mimic that behavior in the future. In comparison, it is the small, consistent gestures– even the simple ‘hello’s’, the sincere ‘how are you’s’– that show people that you truly care. And in the end, this true care exhibited toward your fellows is what enables others to mimic that behavior, and allows them do the same in reciprocation.
How do you create connection? Additionally, do you think that connection is created more effectively through large gestures or small gestures? On that point, how do you exhibit kindness toward the people you hold dear in your life, and also for strangers you are meeting for the first time, even when the interactions are fleeting?
This week, let’s all make the effort to recognize the small gestures as the big deals that they really are. Let’s say ‘hi’, let’s look into a person’s eyes and ask them how they are doing, and actually wait and be interested in their answer. Let’s delve a little bit deeper than the surface level interactions that surround us on a daily basis, and let’s pay attention to each other’s wants and needs, instead of just our own.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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