Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to Stop a Crying Baby

Question of the Week:


I feel so hard done by. I hate feeling like this when I know I have many blessings to be grateful for, like a great family and wonderful children.  But I find that no matter how hard I work, how hard I try, others have it so much easier than me - they get left inheritances, win prizes, travel the world and I just slog and slave to live a decent life, and still I struggle. I harbour such negativity it is unhealthy. How can I start feeling more grateful for my blessings and less resentful about my hardships?




I hear your frustration. Let me offer you some wisdom that I was taught this morning. I learnt it from my baby daughter.


She has been unwell and very moody and clingy over the last few days. This morning she would not stop crying, for no apparent reason, and nothing I did would placate her. I made funny faces, dangled her dolly in front of her and rubbed it in her face, sang silly songs, and made strange noises by cupping my hand underneath my armpits. But she continued to sob, oblivious to my efforts to make her smile.


So I changed tactics. I sat next to her on the floor and started crying myself.


It worked. She stopped crying immediately. First she looked at me a little surprised. But then, from behind her tears emerged a broad smile, and she started laughing. The more I cried, the more she giggled. She had finally snapped out of it, and we had some happy moments together for the first time in days.


Later I reflected on this. What made her stop crying? Why was she laughing? Then it hit me. It is so simple.


The minute we focus on someone else's pain, we forget our own.


In her own babyish way, my daughter was doing what we all do sometimes, wallowing in our own problems and being miserable about them. This is self-perpetuating. The more we think about our problems, the more miserable we feel, and the more we feel miserable the more we focus on what we lack.


The best way to break this cycle is to look outside of ourselves and see if we can help someone else. As long as I was trying to take my baby daughter out of her sadness, it was her and her sadness that took up both of our attention. The second I shifted the focus from her and started crying, she was drawn out of her own sadness and felt me, my presence and my needs. She could now stop crying because she was freed from being stuck in herself. She was no longer the pitiful cry baby, she was comforter and soother of a crying dad. So she laughed.


I think my baby girl is right. You may have good reason to feel down. But you need to stop soaking in self-pity and look around at what good you can do for others. Don't think of what you need, think of what you are needed for. Don't look at what you are missing, but see the gifts you have that others may be missing and you can share.


You have so much to offer and so much good you can do. Don't let bitterness and envy paralyse you and prevent your soul from giving forth its light. It's time for your baby to stop crying and give a smile.


Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss


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