Friday, April 9, 2010

Struggling with Grace

Is it possible to be a mensch all the time? Even as we strive to always do and be good, sometimes, despite our best intentions, grace eludes us.

There are moments in everyone's life when external forces cause us great pain and we seem not be able to rise above our feelings of hurt and anguish.

Rashi, the great Jewish Biblical commentator from the Middle Ages, suggests:

Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.

What does this mean? Shall we just go along to get along, as many would suggest? Shall we assume we have no ability to change what happens to us, so it is best not to challenge it? Perhaps the secret is in the grace implied by Rashi's statement.

If things happen for a reason, as people like to say, then our acceptance of life's twists and turns allows us to walk its path with dignity and grace. This doesn't preclude us from making an effort to change life's direction or circumstances, like pursuing an education or having a child. Yet, with each decision, an outcome emerges over which we may have no control. The die is cast; we live with the consequences. We can accept the results or we can fight them.

There's an inherent nihilism to this thinking. But this wasn't Rashi's intent. His was an exhortation to be graceful, to take what happens and find a way to live with it. To live in this fashion is to not be distracted by the dissent but to move forward; to use one's time and energy for good and not fight the fights we can't win.

To be accepting of one's lot in life: that is to be a mensch.

Is this truly possible? Can anyone do this? Can I?

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