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She is helping. Kinda.

Our kitchen had become a mess, as it often does, and I asked my nine-year-old daughter for help. She put a chair in front of the refrigerator, took down all the pictures and magnets, she sprayed and wiped it of dust, and then put the items back up more neatly than before.

This was not helpful with regard to the mess.

(Ok, actually, it was a little helpful because it got her out of my way so I could clean the rest of the kitchen. But it wasn’t the help I wanted.)

She thought she was helping.

 

Self-perception

How helpful we think people are and how helpful they think they are can be quite different.

From our point of view, they might not be helpful at all.

But they might think they are.

What we think people are doing and what they think they are doing might be different.

Often.

What is very important to know is that they think they are helping.

The person who flips you off – as hard as this might be for you to believe – thinks they are helping. They think they are on the side of good.

They don’t think what they are doing is wrong – in fact, I bet they think they are making this world a better place.

People always think they are on the side of right and good.

This is something very important to keep in mind. They think they are part of the solution.

No one – with very rare exception – thinks they’re doing anything that will make life harder for others.

The exception I can think of is when you are playing croquet and you’re very far behind and you decide “I’m never gonna win, so I’ll just obstruct everyone else’s game.”

And that circumstance happens in life as well.

Annie thought she was helping.

I want you to think about this with those people who are annoying you today.

See if you can believe this: they’re trying to help. Those people who are being less than helpful and getting in your way actually have a positive self-regard. They are like Annie rearranging the magnets on the fridge. They’re trying to be helpful.

You don’t have to see it that way.

But the sooner you do, the less frustrated you will be.

We need to have compassion for those damn Democrats and those damn Republicans who, in our mind, are the problem.

Because even our enemies think they’re doing a good job.

To see this takes great compassion, and I wish it for you and for me.

My kitchen is clean. For now.

 

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Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer

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