When We See Only Warts
“Judge everyone favorably.” So teaches the Talmud. I was reminded of this verse when Neil came to the office for his annual visit. Although this middle-aged man’s heart condition was stable, he seemed quite tense. It turned out that he had issues with some coworkers – personality clashes everywhere. In fact, as I looked at my notes from prior visits, this seemed to be a recurring theme with Neil.
Now some psychiatrists would have a diagnosis for Neil’s personality. I certainly can’t judge that. But we all know people who always seem to gripe about others. No one can please them, and they have an utter lack of insight into the issues that others might be contending with. It’s always only about them, and their own specific needs.
A similar teaching in the Talmud is its instruction to “greet everyone with a cheerful countenance.” Not always easy to do, but it seems intuitive that if we are cheerful to others and give them the benefit of the doubt when conflict arises, there is a good chance that we will be treated well in return. Amazing how that works – if we are pleasant and try to see the good in others, they in turn will treat us better.
So I couldn’t resist the temptation to tell Neil, “You know, when all you see are warts, everyone is ugly.” Some of my own words to live by.
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Dr. Joel Roffman has spoken to many church, synagogue and support groups. His book, Coping with Adversity: Judaism’s response to illness and other life struggles is enjoyable, uplifting and informative. It is meant for people of all faiths and can be viewed at www.copingwithadversity.com. It is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders, and Amazon.com.