21 Tamuz 5779 / Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | Torah Reading: mattot
 
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Winning at all Costs    

Winning at all Costs



A certain terrible character blemish can lead to a person's downfall. This is what we call, "the lust for victory" when a person wants to win an argument no matter what…

 



A certain terrible character blemish is liable to lead to a person's downfall. This is what we call, "the lust for victory" when a person wants to win an argument or disagreement no matter what. True or not, he wants his opinion to prevail at all costs. He not only wants to decide how he'll live, but he wants to decide what truth is. He won't listen to anyone or any opinion that disagrees with him. One cannot budge him from his preconceptions. He'll never ever acknowledge a mistake. He'll never change, either. Usually, he ridicules others. All this is the lust for victory.

 

A person like this, who always wants to win the argument, can never find truth. Why? To find truth, a person must be willing to relinquish everything, including ego. He must be prepared to admit that he erred and be willing to make changes in his life. Even after he thinks he found the truth, he must be prepared to acknowledge that he again made a mistake and once more alter his way of thinking, even if this cycle repeats itself dozens of times. In short, to rectify oneself, one must be willing to acknowledge his or her mistakes.

 

Rebbe Nachman writes (Likutei Moharan I:122), "The lust for victory – to be right all the time – cannot stand the truth. Even if the lustful person saw truth with his own eyes, he'd deny it because of his lust for victory." As we described above, when a person wants to be right and win the argument no matter what, he'll never acknowledge the truth, for it might cause him to admit his mistake and obligate him to change.

 

A person affected by the lust for victory must exert great effort to rid himself of it. When he ponders his limitations, that he's only human, he can do it. As a mortal with sorely limited intellectual and spiritual insight, he knows little about himself, much less about the other creations that are full of Divine secrets, intricacy and wisdom. The fact that "he knows little" is an extreme understatement. If a person looks truthfully at himself in relation to both the macrocosm and microcosm of creation, he truly knows nothing. What's more, he doesn't even know about all the things he knows nothing about. He can't explain what's happening in his own life, let alone explain world events or see into the future. He has no way to protect himself from the perils of the times and of nature.

 

Most important, he must acknowledge the truth that he can neither help himself nor rescue himself from anything beyond his apparent control. He can't help his own loved ones, let alone his countrymen. As soon as a person is ill in the slightest, and especially if he comes down with a serious illness or disease, the balloon of his pride is completely deflated. Yesterday, he thought that he ran the world and could boss others around. Today, while ill, he is full of anxiety, trepidation and worry about the future. A person can't be haughty when he smells the grass of the cemetery, a place that he is one day closer to.

 

It's your decision: if you choose, you can cling to your arrogance and feel like you're better than anyone else in the world. You're always right, so you disdain every individual or opinion that disagrees with you. You think you have the truth, but what truth is it? You're full of suffering in this world, you lack joy in life and you are missing the boat of your mission on earth.

 

On the other hand, you can decide that you have much to learn and that one can learn from every other person, as our sages said, "Who is wise - he that learns from every person" (Avot 4:1). Take into consideration that in order to find and learn truth, one must pass through a series of stages. Each consecutive stage may destroy old notions that you lived by and thought were true. Be ready to change every single day. That way, life is a wonderful, dynamic learning experience full of growth opportunities and joy. This way, you'll find the reason that your soul was created and your purpose on earth.





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