A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth: Part 51 – The Good, the Bad and the Fixable

To keep the good, fix the fixable and replace the bad, different methods of treatment are required. The verse in the Book of Psalms: “Turn from evil, do good, search for peace and pursue it,”  gives the prescription for how to address each area of need.

The teacher must be prepared to utilize whatever method is necessary to get his students to “turn from evil.” In this case, the evil is that which presently possesses no redeeming value whatsoever. It is an opaque barrier to the student’s realization of his or her potential. This opaque barrier can be formed by a bad temper, anxiety, addictions, or by dishonesty to name a few examples. It must be eliminated altogether. The question is: how? Different problems require different solutions–sometimes we can eliminate a negative trait by replacing it with a positive one. For example, a person who is stingy can consciously work on himself to give, until generosity actually does become one of his character traits.

Sometimes, however, the negative character trait must be forcefully eradicated, as is the case with haughtiness, which has no place in a person’s psyche. To accomplish this, the teacher can lovingly point out to the student where he is motivated by haughtiness. The very recognition and isolation of this negative trait is the first step in its eradication.

Any borderline elements of the student’s character must be cleansed of impurity, refined and perfected, so as to function at maximum potential for maximum good. Likewise, these personality traits which are basically healthy, but which are unbalanced in expression, require tempering to keep their strength channeled into productive areas.

For example, a student who is disciplined in his or her studies may need to temper that industriousness by engaging more with others–by visiting the sick or attending celebrations–thus bringing that positive trait of thirsting for Torah into a balanced state, where giving and receiving exist in their proper proportions. On the other hand, a student who is constantly doing favors for others may need to set boundaries, and stay focused on one project at a time so as not to overextend himself or herself in too many directions.

To take another example, a student who is focused on absolute honesty may need to cultivate tact and learn to speak “truth” gently. In this case the student’s trait of honesty, though praiseworthy, requires “fixing” before it can operate at maximum potential.

In the above examples of borderline, we see that something is missing in the student. What is there is good, yet it is only half of the way toward perfection, and the polarity which complements that attribute must still be developed. This is the work implied in: “Do good.”  It means taking that which is not operating to capacity, dusting it off, filing it down, and reinserting it in a way that insures maximum productivity.

In the following chapter will explore the reinforcement of good attributes.

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