At my son’s bar mitzvah, I told my father that I struggled with Judaism, and therefore, did not want to be a devout religious man like he was; I also told him that I did not want to not be like him, just in case he was right. Little did I know that he would be my greatest teacher, and that I would do the same thing he did, just for a different segment of the population: my father gave unconditional love to Jewish youth, and I give it to people who suffer. I changed it after his death to “Dad, you received unconditional love from Jewish youth, and I receive it from people who suffer.”
I do not know for you– yet, for me, being a parent is one of the most rewarding, and difficult jobs– all at the same time. For the most part, my children are truly incredible, kind, caring, warm, respectful children. I am absolutely blessed beyond belief. Yet, they are also children, and they misbehave, talk disrespectfully, tell me what they really think, and call me out in ways that I do not always like.
On the flip side, when I have the privilege of helping someone, the people I help constantly compliment me, and let me know how amazing I am.
I guess this is what I meant in my story, when I said, “Dad, you receive unconditional love from Jewish youth, and I receive it from those who suffer.” It feels much better to be told how great we are, yet that is not where life’s precious rewards truly come from.
Rabbi Jonathan Sachs– may his soul Rest in Peace– said, “Wisdom is free, yet it’s the most expensive thing we will ever get, as it comes through suffering.”
It is the heavy lifting we do when we are not given accolades– when we are not constantly being rewarded– that are the true accomplishments. Being a present parent when our children do not want us around, and continuing to show up regardless of whether we are tired, stressed, upset, or whatever we may be struggling with at the time, is where it really counts in the scheme of things.
My chief question for you is: How do you prioritize what is important to you, over what feels good and gets you the most praise?
Please don’t get me wrong– I’m not suggesting that we do not help others, or that we do not spend our time giving. What I am suggesting, is to be careful when the cost of giving has a negative impact on your core relationships with your children, your spouse, and your loved ones.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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