A Kabbalistic Approach to Spiritual Growth: Part 54 Gentle Decisiveness

After analyzing the student's personality, the educator must use this information to instigate the changes he envisions. His strategy should reflect both careful deliberation and deep concern for the student, and he must feel unequivocally committed to his decision before he speaks. Any doubts or insecurities concerning his judgments in this matter will only undermine his effectiveness. Rather, he must trust his decision‑making ability and proceed with conviction. Indecisiveness will not only drain energy from the task at hand, but will be sensed by the student and mirrored back as mistrust and resistance to change. Consequently, the educator must state his advice with confidence and forcefulness.  

Yet even with all this strength of inner conviction, the educator must express his advice gently, with ultimate concern for the student's ability to receive it. Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn compared this to a precious stone in its setting. The stone is hard with sharp, straight edges, but the setting softens the effect by adding curves and roundness, as well as making the stone "functional" as a piece of jewelry. Similarly, although the teacher's instruction is firm and resolute, it must be communicated with loving kindness and minimal pain, thus enabling the student to integrate it into his or her heart and life.

This particular ability to express decisions both firmly and gently can only be learned by example. It is not an innate talent, nor a skill that can be acquired from reading books or explanations, nor even a technique that the educator can develop as a spectator. Rather, it requires that he actually be on the receiving end of such instruction in order to experience both the non-verbal messages of his own teacher's heart as well as the stated intentions of his speech. Through that kind of experience, the educator can begin to absorb the proper way of balancing these two qualities. This places a heavy burden of responsibility on the educator. Since this skill of gentle‑decisiveness can only be learned by first‑hand experience, and since failure to do so engenders chronic ambivalence (a condition which will cripple his ability to persist through crisis and overcome obstacles), it becomes critical to learn this trait.

This fifth skill, of formulating a detailed plan for bringing the student's character more into alignment with Torah, requires considerable time and energy on the part of the educator. He must give careful thought to this task of analysis, and his data must be thorough and accurate, so that he can formulate clear, unambiguous goals. Once he has accomplished this, he must be able to deliver his message broken down into small, manageable pieces–concentrated "bullets" of energy–that will be able to enter his students' consciousness and influence them effectively (as we will see in the next chapter).

Leave A Comment

 
Subscribe