Years ago, an Eastern European youth came up to me after a speaking gig of mine. He told me that, according to Jewish law, I couldn’t be a rabbi if I didn’t keep kosher. I politely asked him if he had considered that I – as a rabbi – might know more about Judaism than he did. And, that as I knew more, perhaps it was possible that in fact I didn’t need to keep kosher to be a rabbi. While he agreed that I might know more about the subject, he couldn’t get that concept through his head and persisted in arguing his point. Did I resign using the title rabbi? No, of course not.
Others I know have found themselves in similar situations. My friend Nagy is a Buddhist priest, but he grew up Catholic. Sometimes people will say to him, ‘Nagy, you’re not a Buddhist, you’re not Asian,’ and he just laughs. He laughs the way a Buddhist should laugh when someone say something absurd like that.
The political writer Thomas Paine observed this obtuseness among his peers. He once said “To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.” In other words, there is no point in arguing with someone when you know that you are not going to be able to change his or her mind.
Now I’d like to make this personal and turn it to you. After all, you are the foremost expert and authority on you. I want you to realize that you are the only person who can define who you are, what you are, and who you should be.
This week’s spiritual advice?
Be the you you know you are. And stop defending your right to be yourself to others.