I would like to share with you an excellent article written by Harav Shmuel Gluck, a noted expert on relationships from Hillsboro, NY, with a specialty in teens:
My Elul dream focuses on how people should treat each other. This is one topic of avodas Hashem that many people focus on in a vacuum (e.g. today’s conversation, today’s favor). That falls short of our responsibility to make bein odom lachaveiro into one of our long-term goals. Personally, it is because I become overwhelmed, realizing that a lifetime project requires me to change almost every single interaction I have with almost every person I meet. Since that is very intense, I am not ready to do it, and therefore I don’t “go there.”
What we are ignoring is that improving our bein odom lachaveiro will increase the quality of our lives. Our interactions with others affect the quality of our friendships, our sholom bayis, and the emotional health of our children. Those are all ideals that we acknowledge are important to us. In other words, while the burden is immense, the advantage it offers us is just as immense. In addition, multiple mitzvos (I would imagine close to half of all mitzvos, if not more) are based on the quality of our interactions. It is impossible to ignore this portion of mitzvos and still consider ourselves to be fulfilling Hashem’s commandments.
“Getting along” with others can mean many things. In this article, I am defining it as having a positive, emotional, and sensitive relationship with others. I am specifically discussing such a relationship with people that we find difficult to have such a relationship with. I am dreaming about getting along with everyone (except for those people that we are instructed to treat with respect yet avoid as much as possible). I am dreaming of a life where everyone wants to be our friend, and we want to be theirs, where everyone respects us because we are getting along with them.
Everyone wants what I describe but many consider it impossible because they believe that their relationships with others are sabotaged because of the way others treat them. It may be true that others make it impossible, with the enormous amount of effort they require to get along with them. Nevertheless, if we “up our game,” we can get along with almost everyone. In this article, I want to convince people of the need and responsibility to do so. Also, I want to offer a single tip which, when thought about, can increase people’s ability to positively interact with others.
People become distracted when speaking to others. They forget what is important and consider what is unimportant to be important. For example, when asking for a raise, people may appreciate that conversations with their boss are not really concerned with whether they agree with their boss’s view of sports or politics. They will “forgive” what they believe to be their boss’s wrong beliefs in order to increase their chances of receiving a raise. Parents act far more patiently with their children’s teachers if they feel that they need the teachers on their side to help their child manage throughout the school year. The importance of the relationship they have, combined with what is important to them, causes them to be mindful that their conversation represents something much bigger than their boss’s political views or their child’s teacher’s views on chinuch, education. Their family’s income and their child’s future are at stake.
What they realize is that their interaction with the person they are speaking to is not the entire story. There is a triangle: themselves, the person they are speaking to, and the third part of the triangle – the person they care about. My child’s teacher may not deserve my patience, but my child’s future does.
We treat each person not with the respect they deserve or don’t deserve. We treat every person with the respect Hashem wants people to be treated with, whether they are deserving or not.
I found this article to be meaningful to me in terms of our interaction with others, especially when difficult situations arise. As we enter the Yomim Noro’im, please join me in our efforts to improve our bein odom lachaveiro.
Kesivah vachasimah tovah,
Rabbi Peretz Scheinerman