Emotional Health: Self-Transcendence, Part 2


Self-Transcendence, Part 2

Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT

Are you a kind person? A kind person is someone who consciously chooses to give people pleasure and avoid causing them pain. Kind people are givers and live in a self-transcending way. People who are not kind are takers and live lives of self-absorption.

Takers view life as an opportunity to gratify their needs and desires, believing that gratifying their desires and being successful will lead to personal fulfillment. They think of themselves first, and others second. Although this strategy may result in moments of pleasure, in the end, it leads to a life of emptiness and isolation.

Givers view life as an opportunity to give others pleasure. They seek to unite harmoniously with others through giving. Giving is the path of self-transcendence and is always deeply fulfilling. We can never fill ourselves through taking. The only way to fill the self is by transcending the self.

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler reported that one winter day, he was walking in the forest and saw a pack of wolves that had discovered a carcass. Immediately they began fighting each other for the food. In the end, the strongest wolf of the pack was left standing and devoured the carcass, while the others lay bleeding and dying in the snow.

As he reflected upon this savage scene, he compared it to those whose lives are dedicated to their own success and fulfilling their personal ambitions. The victor in the battle of life fueled by personal ambition also comes out wounded, ill, and exhausted. And if this is the fate of the victor, what is there to say about the vanquished? In a society like ours that values competition, winning, and personal success above kindness, giving, and being in service, most people end up losers. He concludes, “What we learn from all this is that the ambitious one, the hungry one is the most miserable of all G-d’s creatures.”

Taking is easy. Giving is hard. Becoming a giver requires constant practice and discipline. This is so, because the natural tendency of a human being is to take. Children are self-absorbed and takers. Adults who never consciously practice giving behave like self-absorbed children.

Most of us are certainly kind and giving from time to time, but how deeply engrained in the fiber of our being is the desire to give? Do I love giving and love being in service to others? Is giving and serving my passion? Is it my primary drive? Is my purpose in life to be in service to others or myself? Is my ambition driven by a desire to take or to give? If you would like to discover the truth about yourself, ask your spouse or a close friend if you are a giver or a taker.

Here are some guidelines to help you become a kinder, more giving, and more self-transcending person:

  1. Strive to greet everyperson with a warm, friendly smile. A warm facial expression is a powerful way to give pleasure to others
  2. Once a day, consciouslychoose to build someone up with a sincere compliment. Perhaps, the greatest pleasure we can give others is to give the gift of encouragement.
  3. One of the ways people hurt others is by gossiping. Avoid speaking in a derogative way about someone unless there is a legitimate reason for doing so. Kind people don’t cause pain through unkind words.
  4. Review your week, looking closely at your interactions with others. Identify all the ways you caused pain to others such as getting angry, being critical or judgmental, not being punctual, being impatient, selfish, cheap, etc. Choose one type of error and try to eliminate it entirely.

True kindness is measured by the small things we do or don’t do daily. Building character requires hard work. There are no short cuts to becoming a truly kind and giving person.