Tuesday, October 1, 2013

No'ach 74 – Robbing a thief of his dignity

Parashat Noach describes the corruption and degeneration of mankind, God's decision to destroy his world by the flood and then   give Man a second chance through Noach.

The verse from Genesis /Be're'shit  6:11 says that 'the earth had become filled with theft and robbery'- va'ti'mlei ha'aretz cha'mas. There was a breakdown of law and order, no respect for someone else's property and a willingness to kill in order to steal. The Medrash commentary asks the following question. It is understandable that the criminals and robbers should be accountable for what they did, but what about the helpless victims, what did they do wrong?. The Medrash answers that they stole with their words- cha'mas de'varim. After the victims helplessly watched the robbers clear their homes and leave, their 'good bye wishes  ' went too far. One has the right to defend one's property, and when it is apparent that the robbers are prepared to kill, you can kill them first, or you can call the police. But if there is nothing to do, you have to keep quiet and not say anything disrespectful to the robbers. If you curse them, you are guilty of ' robbing them of their dignity'. Even a thief or a robber has the right to a basic human dignity. Rav Avraham Grodgensky explains that these high standards of interpersonal behavior are the obvious conclusions that Man and his God given mind and intelligence should come to.

Now in real life we might be lucky not to encounter the robber described above, but there are countless situations where our buttons get pushed. Our spouse was not careful, burnt the food, destroyed the pot and the house is now full of smoke. Kids turned your kitchen into a pig style after you had cleaned the kitchen before you left for work. So you express your anger and frustration with plenty of ' compliments' and put-downs. You feel fully justified and self righteous and now a little better for responding to inappropriate behavior and setting limits.

If one is lucky to able to reflect in an honest way about what had happened, one will express remorse and regret for the outburst and apologize to one's spouse or children. Your kids and spouse most likely were not in the 'thinking mode' and it was just not on their minds to be more careful or focus on preventing a mess. They certainly weren't trying to deliberately mess up the kitchen in order to anger you. It is not the same as the robber who deliberately stole from you. The over-kill reaction is far worse than what your kids or spouse have done. And you are now guilty of stealing – robbing them of their dignity. If we have to respect the dignity of a thief how much more so the members of our family and our students.

So how do we deal with these situations?

1 We should throw out the euphemisms for anger – he pushed or pressed my buttons. Instead say – I got angry and think of a plan or a solution to deal with these situations.

2. Take cues from your body and be more aware of how ' weak ' your position is. When we are offended, buttons pushed, angered, feel betrayed and disappointed we are in a weak position to deal with situations. The fight-flight mode initiated by the animal-limbic brain and the adrenal and cortisol hormones puts one in an emotional state, shuts down the ' thinking brain' and lets the ' garbage' flow.

3. So take a personal time-out or chill time to cool down and find the appropriate time to engage in solving problems, addressing concerns in a collaborative way

4The more we use extrinsic motivation such as anger, put-downs , threats or even positive reinforcement, there is less internalization of the real message and no chance of real change. People become defensive and see you as having a problem.

5 besides all the negativity of criticism – no such thing as positive criticism, so solve problems instead- , you have just made your relationship with your kid or spouse worse. The only way we can impact on family and others is through good relationships. So ask yourself - is this worth jeopardizing my relationship with my kids or spouse.

6 The bottom line – put your relationship first.

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