9 Kislev 5781 / Wednesday, November 25, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayeitzei
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“Quiet” Arrogance    

“Quiet” Arrogance

Most people say that they want to change, but it isn't always true, especially when they show no interest in listening to the person that can help them change for the better...


Before Uri became religious, he had a major problem with the internet; but in an attempt to become holy overnight, he forced himself to stop using his computer along with a bunch of other activities, cold turkey.
Uri was able to restrain himself from owning a computer, but because he didn’t deal with why he misused the computer in the first place, other problems started popping up: Uri became depressed and socially withdrawn; he stopped socializing, he overslept, he developed fainting spells, and he developed a bizarre form of shaking following physical intimacy.
Uri’s wife did her best to stand by her husband, but as she gave birth to one child after the next, it became too much for her to watch Uri sleep all day and have nothing to do with his children.
Eventually Uri became suicidal and was brought to a series of psychologists and psychiatrists to no avail. Eventually, to his wife’s utter shock, Uri “cured himself” of his suicidal thoughts by purchasing a new computer and after 15 years of abstention, he was back online all night, every night.
This was the breaking point for Uri’s wife. As a religious wife and mother there was much that she could overlook, but pornography wasn’t on the list.
When I met Uri, I could see that he didn’t want to be on the computer any more than his wife did, but that he was using it as a way of offsetting his having become religious too quickly.  For Uri, the computer was not just a computer but was symbolic of all of the other “pleasures” that he had relinquished too quickly in his zeal to become holy overnight, for example: listening to music, sports, carpentry, art and camping.
One of my first tasks, when I meet a new person, is to notice how much the person wants to change or doesn’t want to change. Have you ever tried speaking to someone who has no interest in listening to you? Just about everybody that I meet tells me how much they want to change, but that isn’t always true. In fact most people really don’t want to change nearly as much as they say they do. I’ve learned the hard way that to ignore a person’s resistance to being helped and simply plunge into trying to “help” them before they really want my help is an exercise in futility.
Most people have some degree of “quiet arrogance” that blocks them from listening to G-d and certainly from listening to me. So when I encounter the usual long silences and statements like, “I really don’t have much more to say,” or “I’ve really told you everything already,” or “you’ve probably never met a person like me before, are you sure you can help someone like me?”, I realize what I’m up against.
Uri needed to understand that the yetzer (the evil inclination), was creating obstacles that were blocking him from believing that change was possible and that trusting me with his real feelings could lead to anything useful.
So instead of speaking to Uri about his obvious problems, I started by speaking  to him about his less obvious problem  - the one that kept him from accepting that I could have anything productive to tell him.  When I broached this with Uri, it actually opened up a very productive conversation in which Uri told me that he has rarely seen the point of having a relationship or even a conversation with someone unless he believed that he can learn something from that person - which was rare in his experience.
As we peeled away the spiritual husks surrounding Uri’s ability to accept help in earnest, the tone of our conversations began to change. Here’s a highly condensed summary of the more productive issues that began to immerge once Uri got out of his own way.
The yetzer was obstructing Uri’s progress by comparing him to the very religious and holy people that he was reading about and whose lectures he was attending. Uri persecuted himself for not being able to measure up to the spiritual accomplishments of people who had worked for many years to reach their level. He needed to see how he beat himself up in this way in order to stop doing it.
Uri realized that he was “drawn” to very deep and complicated religious ideas that only confused and frustrated him because he was unable to use those ideas in any practical way to help himself.  So whenever he brought up these types of complicated ideas, I tried to counter-balance them with the much simpler approach to serving G-d that Rabbi Arush speaks and writes about.  Soon Uri realized the benefits of not learning from books that, at his stage of development, only got him further tangled up in knots and put pressure on him to be someone who he isn’t.
Uri learned that his incessant blaming of himself for being on the computer every night, and for all his other problems and  “deficiencies” was above all his biggest and most costly mistake and another quiet form of arrogance. He learned that his “failures” were from G-d just to show him that he couldn’t solve his problems by himself.
Uri confronted his resentments against G-d for not running the world the way he wanted and forcing him to see that he could not progress without forming a more patient and cooperative relationship with G-d.
Another way in which Uri humbled himself was to stop trying to decipher G-d’s messages which only made him feel more frustrated, obsessional, hopeless and depressed.  Uri accepted that his job, for the moment, was not to “figure G-d out,” but to simply learn to believe in G-d’s Goodness and cultivate his emuna.
Uri began to relinquish his passive form of “emuna” which didn’t necessitate his taking any action to help himself and began to take more risks to prove to G-d and himself that he could build his faith in G-d by taking certain concrete steps.
As a result of the above, Uri began to see miracles.
One day there was an electrical blackout in Uri’s home, and when the power went back on every electrical appliance in his home worked except for his computer. “Finally,” said Uri. “A sign that even I can decipher!” (we laughed). That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. After that Uri was able to get rid of his computer; he normalized his sleep cycle; he started learning with his older kids and spending more time with the younger ones; his bizarre symptoms like fainting and shaking after intimacy have ceased; he is going out and praying three times a day in synagogue, he is generally more social; and he skips over the deep complicated passages in his learning that he accepts will only cause conflicts and doubt in him at this time. He still has a way to go, but thank G-d, Uri’s wife and family have noticed big changes in Uri.

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