Friday, June 27, 2008

"It is our choices which make us who we are, far more than our abilities" - Albus Dumbledore

[Just, um, before I write a real post, just wanna say - I drove on the highway in the dark by myself last night! And I didn't get lost at all! Hooray!]

It's always really difficult not to compare yourself to others. People and their accomplishments are all around us, almost in an in-your-face kind of way. So how do you measure your own value without using other people as a frame of reference?

I was once having a conversation with someone and she mentioned that there is such a thing as a bechira decision vs. a decision that you make just because it makes sense at the time. A bechira decision, according to her, is a decision you make when nothing is pushing you in either direction - it's purely your own choice which determines which path you will take. You don't really know the bechira decisions of others and you may not even really know your own bechira decisions, but it is precisely those decisions which determine your true character.

In a similar vein, a person cannot truly be judged based on their God-given abilities. It's what they do with those abilities that provides a true basis for judgment, and the more you work on your talents, even those which aren't your strongest, the more you are worthy of being judged based on them. If you don't put in any effort on your part, then what do those talents say about you? Not much. They are gifts, but they are not accomplishments.

This way of looking at other people has really helped me realize - everyone is different. Everyone has different strengths and abilities, but just because one person seems to have been born a natural [fill in the blank] doesn't mean that person is better than me, it just means they are utilizing a gift from God. Although, then I struggle with - well, what are my gifts? Isn't a person's worth also including their God-given gifts? I'm not sure.

But I think the point is - a person's worth is not measured based on what they do effortlessly. Even if, to the outside world, it seems as though a person is very accomplished, talented, popular, brilliant...whatever trait you may admire - their real accomplishments in this world are those things which they've worked hard to achieve. Their true worth can be measured based on the real, bechira choices they've made. And once I realized that, I started to be able to measure myself in the same way. Just because I'm not as naturally talented as some people or as well-liked as others or if I ever feel under-appreciated...that isn't a measure of who I am. In fact, the harder I have to work for things, the more they're worth and the more of an accomplishment they are. The bigger the struggle, the more success is worth at the end. And that goes for everything. And the harder the choice, the more it says about who you are. But since we can never truly know just how difficult things are for people, we can also never truly measure ourselves against them.

I guess the real person we have to worry about measuring against is ourselves. It's just really, really, really hard to A. come to that realization B. internalize it and C. live by it.


  1. I LOVE that you quoted Dumbledore!

  2. So true and so well expresssed. Thank you.
    Adding to this, I think it is Rav Dessler, who speaks about nekudat habechirah.
    It is the very item which is difficult for us to choose in a positive way. Meaning that for a child it might be choosing between "stealing" the cookie or not, whereas for an adult it might be speaking lashon harah or doing some other forbidden activity.
    And that nekudat habechirah is different for each and every one of us, and it changes at different times of our lives, either because of maturity and/or spiritual level changes.
    And THAT is what determines who we are, and THAT is something that we do not know about other people, and THAT is our mission, to move the nekudat habechirah to a higher and higher level within us. As you well said: measuring against ourselves.

  3. While this is a very usefule tool in looking at ones self I think people should be very careful in applying it to others.

  4. G - I only meant it as a way to look at one's self. The whole point is to stop looking at others so much. :)