Updated: Sep 4
Consider that you have an important decision or question present in your life. As an honest, truth-seeking person, you ask the perspectives of people you respect and look up to, you listen to their sincere questioning to empower you, and you write to and pray to your Creator. What do you do when you receive seemingly conflicting opinions from the different sources, and even seemingly from G-d?
This felt like the story of my life growing up - which is the premise of one book I have been writing - and I experienced in another way this week. It feels like on some days doing choice a is aligned and on other days choice b is the sure answer. How can that be?
Growing up, I asked questions and received perspectives from individuals of various backgrounds and professions. I was willing to see the value in everyone, but did not see the value in my own voice, nor understood how to listen to myself. When seemingly more learned individuals inform you of one thing, it’s quite intimidating to consider your own perspective, because this person knows what’s best for me, right?
Towards the end (56:30 min) of segment 7 of Heichaltzu, Rabbi YY Jacobson addressed this exact concept of listening to oneself. “We sometimes live in a culture where people are taught,” he said, “the less you trust yourself the better it is.” Honestly, this really resonated, albeit in a painful way. Often the advice we seek from others come from the best of intentions, but they leave out empowering us to be certain of, or at least trusting of, what our soul is telling us. “The ultimate truth of Yiddishkeit [Judaism],” Rabbi YY continued, “is you have to trust yourself.” We know this because, G-d created us and gave us choice. What does it mean to trust yourself?
There are times when the decision we choose turns out to be a “mistake.” I use quotations because there is a higher truth that ultimately mistakes are lessons that our soul needs to learn; however, did we really need to go through such an experience to learn something?
One solution is found in the HaYom Yom [daily teachings] for today, “One must serve G-d by his own efforts. [A person’s service] is higher when he is led by the hand Above, but it is more cherished when it is generated by his own efforts.” In February, I wrote in The Power you were born with, a teaching with a similar theme from the 5th Lubavitcher Rebbe based on the teaching, “an oath administered to him [before birth, warning him] be righteous and do not be wicked” (Niddah 30b). G-d grants us the freedom of choice and to seek deep within for what’s truly best for ourselves. We may frequently make decisions from a limited perspective, but that’s how we grow and expand our perspective. Although the decision is sometimes very difficult and painful, it is okay; as the teaching in Shabbat 10a and Shabbat 119b shares, G-d wants us to be “partners in creation,” rather than robots in His plan. Trusting yourself is very contextual. Sometimes trusting yourself means listening to the advice of others. Other times it can be mean not heeding to the advice of others.
To trust yourself requires listening and being able to discern the different voices and urges within yourself. For example, if a person has an addiction or a strong emotion around something, it takes real practice to quiet down the mind and listen to the truth within. One will have to sit in the emotions fully in order to see what’s on the other side of the emotion. It may be fear, pain, or sadness. All of which need to be felt, but sitting in the emotion allows you to fully experience it and move through it.
There are levels to choices we make. Many of the choices we make are based on emotion, such as when we’re hangry we don’t necessarily make the best decisions. Other times, the choices we make are from external pressures from other people or society, such as going to school or getting a job. The deepest level of choice is “when one’s course of action is determined by, and only by, the very quintessence of self.” In order to make a conscious choice from the core of who we are, though, we have to get beyond all of the “noise.” Whether it’s noise from our emotions or noise from the various voices within, Dispenza teaches “wisdom is a memory without the emotional charge, meaning we have to become aware of all the external and internal factors, move through the emotions, and then, having considered and meditated on all sides and opinions, make a firm decision. In the words of German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back… There is one elementary truth… that the moment one definitely commits oneself… all sorts of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
It can be challenging when confronted with a decision that seems too great for oneself, yet my response has been to seek out answers from others, what can be beneficial. As I wrote in Stop Giving Your Power Away To Others And Start Empowering Your Inner Voice, “'What do I do?‘ you ask him or her… There’s nothing wrong with reaching out for help, but… the final decision has to be yours.”
Perhaps, when there are two seemingly contradictory options we can learn from the 13th Principle of the Torah, “when two Biblical passages contradict each other, the meaning can be determined by a third Biblical text which reconciles them.” This idea was brought in segment 5 of Heichaltzu.
Your answers are not outside of you in someone else, they are in you — trust yourself. With Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, year 5783, coming up in a month, it’s important to do an honest Reality Check and ask what’s best for me now? Seek out advice from trusted individuals and friends, pay attention to the different desires and urges you have within you to do activities x, y, z, and sit with all the information without overanalyzing and come to a place of calm. The answer is right there within you, you just got to listen.
Articles on Decision Making & Listening to Yourself:
Tools to Help:
The Tools mentioned in Are you Equipped to Love?, such as the Ultimate Guides on my website, are also applicable in learning to trust yourself because trusting yourself and loving others are interconnected.