When I see the drama unfolding around the election results in the USA my reaction is a mixture of disbelief, disgust and concern. Who would have thought that in a cultured, educated society, in a country that has become one of the greatest in history given its relatively short existence, one would witness the kind of behavior that is being exhibited by some of whose party lost the election?
Concern is understandable. ThIngs around us are changing at an unprecedented and rapid pace and there are many real issues that threaten to affect the norm and balance that we are accustomed to. Upheaval, terror, financial uncertainty, and more, are realities that suddenly are looming like dark clouds in our once clear, blue sky. People generally deeply dislike change; anything that rocks one’s comfortable boat. Rethinking, reevaluating, doing what in Hebrew is called cheshbon nefesh – an accounting of the soul, doesn’t come naturally, nor is it easy.
A story is told about William James, who was a Professor of Psychology at Harvard almost a century ago. At the end of one of James’s public lectures, a man from the audience approached him.
“Professor James,” the man began. “I was a student of yours ten years ago, and I heard you lecture on the exact same subject. But what you said tonight totally contradicted what you said then.”
“My good man,” James replied. “Do you think I’ve been standing still?”
Growing requires the courage to re-examine our assumptions and values, to admit that who we are today is not the best that we can be, and sometimes to expose ourselves to the challenge of reassessing and maybe even contradicting our own positions and tenets. As George Bernard Shaw said, “False consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Perhaps a large portion of the American population has woken up to the fact that some radical change is needed in what has become the status quo and are ready to face the nitty-gritty of what is real, honest, and true, no matter the challenge that entails.
We always must continue to grow, change, and push ourselves to become a better person and to reflect a better image of God. In these difficult times, we can afford to be only one kind of person – the kind who is moving forward in courage, hope, and trust in the Creator of all whose character is chesed ve’emet – Lovingkindness and Truth.