“Expectations - Realizations = ANGER” - Rabbi Lazer Brody, “The Trail to Tranquility”
Yeah, that sums it up right there. It’s one of the most brilliant pieces of information I’ve ever read. Shame I can’t remember it 99.9% of the time!
I received this book a few years ago in the mail from Breslev.co.il. I didn’t even know we were involved with them, but this is a typical problem of, “I thought I told you, honey!” Of course he did. Anyways, this is the book that stirred my soul so much, I decided I had to find out who Rabbi Brody was. Never before had I put down a book with the feeling that I was saying goodbye to my dearest friend. It’s been a few years since I read the book, but a recent situation reminded me of the above-mentioned formula...
The other day, I was feeding my 9-month-old (Or was it 10? Bad mommy!) his Mystery Orange Puree, when all of a sudden, he decided he didn’t want any more. Naturally, he started waving his hands in front of the spoon, pulling an expert karate-style block. Before I could move the spoon away, my skirt, his hands, the high chair, and the floor were splattered with food. Well, what was my reaction? “Oh, you’re so cute, Nachman! You don’t want any more? Okay!” There was a lot more baby talk in there, but who needs to read babble?
As I was wiping the tye-dye off of my skirt, I had an epiphany. If one of my older kids had splattered his food across the table, or spilled his drink (which a certain kid does all the time), I would have gotten so mad. I would have totally lost my patience with him and subsequently lost the resulting argument of getting him to clean up the mess. But since the baby did it? Well, of course that was cute.
What would have been the source of my anger in the older kid scenario? It would have been my expectations! I’m telling you, even as I write this, I’m in awe of its profoundness. Since my kids are older, and able to eat without making the kitchen look like there was a cafeteria food fight in it (most of the time), my natural expectation is that they should always eat like humans, and not like savages. As a result, I lose my patience every time there’s 6 ounces of water or juice splattered across the table.
When you think about it, isn’t this really the bottom line? Aren’t we mad, disappointed, sad, betrayed, etc., because the situation didn’t meet our expectations? Think about your relationships. Ladies, when your husband doesn’t do something simple like take out the garbage or put his shoes in their proper place, do you get upset? Why? Because you had expectations that they should do these things. As soon as your husbands didn’t meet your expectations, you got angry! Men, do you walk in the door after work and get upset when you see a messy house, or the laundry is overflowing on the couch? Why? Because you expected your wives to have it all done by the time you arrived home. Thank G-d I trained my husband to not expect this of me anymore. Many times there’s no room on the couch for him to sit down! Sometimes I wonder if he thinks I’m doing it on purpose...
When you apply this principle across the board in any situation, you’ll clearly see how this really is the source of so much negativity between people. Generally, we can break up our expectations into several categories.
Category 1: Work/School- A boss or an employee each has his expectation of the other’s job requirements and professional demeanor. If your employee showed up late to work every day and took four coffee breaks an hour, I doubt he would remain your employee through the end of the week! If your boss were to scream at you about everything you did wrong, and never praised your hard work, would you not be looking for another job asap? If you were a teacher and your students left the class without asking your permission, wouldn’t you get upset? Or if you were a student and the teacher hit you with a pop quiz every week without properly reviewing the material, you might complain to the Dean.
Category 2: Friends/Social Settings- There are many personal boundaries, both physical and emotional, that we are expected not to cross. No one wants to get interrogated about their family history when they’ve just met you. In the dating world, men are notorious for crossing boundaries and disregarding women’s personal space. Ladies, if a guy who’s interested in you can’t understand what “no” means and keeps gettin’ all up in yo’ business, don’t you think he’s a creep? We expect unwavering loyalty from our friends at all times, no matter what type of juicy gossip is going around about us. If our friends let us down in any way, this is a surefire formula for anger.
Category 3: Family/Relationsips- I think I need another article just to cover this one. Here’s where we’re really tested. Sometimes it’s easy to fake nonchalance when we’re boiling mad at a stranger, acquaintance, or even a good friend. But with our spouses or children? It’s nearly impossible! I don’t know many people that can put on a smile, genuine or fake,when their kids are pushing them over the edge of sanity.
So what’s the problem? The problem is that we have expectations to begin with! Who are we to expect anything? On what basis are we entitled to expect things to go the way we plan, or people to behave the way we want them to? Why do we feel the need to be in charge of how our lives unfold?
The core problem is our lack of Spiritual Awareness.Rabbi Brody explains that the more we are spiritually aware of what’s going on in our lives, the less likely we are to get upset when things don’t go our way. How do we develop our spiritual awareness? Through working on our emuna! Internalizing the fact that everything comes from G-d and it’s all for our best is a daily exercise. Our spiritual eyesight begins to develop when we try to see G-d in our everyday challenges. How do we develop our emuna? Through personal prayer!
It’s not like you’re going to wake up one day and magically have perfect emuna- but that’s not even the point. It’s impossible to reach such a level without years of hard work and endless setbacks. If G-d wanted it to be easy for us to have perfect emuna, He would have given it to us on a silver platter (with caviar).
Newsflash, people: emuna isn’t supposed to be easy!
Simple? Yes. Easy? No.
I guess the real question is: why isn’t having emuna as easy as we’d like?
Think about this- if we had no challenges in life, what would motivate us to turn to G-d? Would we ever think about involving Him in our troubles? If life were perfect, what would we need G-d for? That’s why He makes us go through hardships- so we can develop a connection with Him. A life without connecting to our Source, our Life-force, is a life lived in vain. G-d didn’t create us so we can enjoy fancy dinners and drown in credit card debt.
Personal prayer is the key to a happy and meaningful existence. The more difficult your challenge, the more you must cry out for G-d to help you.
When you look back on your life, wouldn’t it be a shame to have suffered through so many difficulties in life without spiritual awareness?