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Have you ever noticed how an interview sometimes says more about the person asking the questions than the one who is answering? I’ve been interviewed for a few magazines and news programs myself recently. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to speak about the things that are close to my heart: Kabbalah, Global Spirituality, and creating communities around the world through which individuals can both be enlightened and lift each other up in friendship and unity. But the ‘slant’ is often found more in the questions than in the answers. For instance, one could ask, “Who are you? What do you believe in?” and another might ask, “Who do you think you are? What do you know?” The questions seek the same answers, and yet one is posed with genuine curiosity and an openness to learn, while the other is served cold with a combative nature.
So… is one right and the other wrong? Not necessarily. In fact, a healthy dose of skepticism can be good to have in certain situations. What is fascinating to me is how a single preconceived notion can lock us into certain ways of thinking. Our capacity to learn is limited only by that which we think we already know.
This sense of bias is not reserved for journalism alone. It is human nature to pre-judge a person or a situation at first sight. Heck, sometimes we do it before we even come face to face with them. We think, “This one’s good,” and “This thing’s bad.” We think what we see is absolute truth, but no. What we see is a result of what we believe to be true.
It reminds me of a famous parable, a story of a student who comes to meet his teacher for the first time. The teacher pours him a cup of a tea and as he fills it, the student’s cup begins to overflow. Nonetheless, the teacher continues to pour. The student is taken aback, and rightfully so! He is soaking in tea, and the teacher is still pouring! “What are you doing?!” he asks the teacher.
“You are like this cup,” says the wise sage. “I cannot teach you until you empty yourself of all that you think you already know.”
In this week’s portion of Shlach Lecha, the Creator tells the Israelites, “Go into the land of Israel. It will be good for you.” Yet, when Moses sends men to spy on the land, they bring back reports that it is a terrible place. There are many commentaries on this issue. Some believe the spies lied because they knew going into Israel would mean losing Moses as a leader, and they were afraid. Others believe it was due to their own ego. Whatever the case, what they saw was based on their own fearful beliefs. They believed to go into Israel would be their ruin, and so when they looked upon the land all that they saw was negative.
We are the same. What we believe to be negative, we will surely see and experience as such. Whereas, when we know there is the Creator’s hand in everything and acknowledge the Light that abides within all people and circumstances, we see the good and therefore can experience good.
This week, empty your cup. Forget what you think you know. Be open to seeing people as you’ve never seen them before. Be willing to try new things. Let go of preconceived notions and enter into all situations knowing that they will be for the best. We don’t need to be a journalist to benefit from letting go of our biases, our judgments, and our prejudices.
This is also a powerful week to build our self-esteem. Remember what others say or believe about you says a lot more about them than it does about you. And vice versa! What you believe to be true of others says more about you than it does about them.
When we know there is good in all things and all people, we will always experience the best life has to offer.