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Stop Whining

May 8, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

And start living.

I haven't read Dr. Laura Schlessinger's new book "Stop Whining and Start Living" but the title seems pretty explicit, and I have to agree with the theme. I think it's a very Jewish idea although I also like to believe we would have expressed it a little more gently...

There are (at least) two problems with being a whiner. One is that you never grow. Instead of taking responsibility for your life, you blame others. Your character deficits are due to your childhood experiences? Okay, but how old are you now? At what point do you think it's time to move on?

I once heard a very critical father excuse himself to his sons, "My father was very critical of me." Wasn't there another way to go with that? Especially after seeing and experiencing how destructive that criticism was?

Don't let your childhood be an excuse for your bad behaviors and negative traits.

I'm not saying that it's easy or even always possible to escape the influence of childhood trauma. But we need to try. We can't let it be an excuse for our bad behaviors and negative traits.

The Almighty has imbued us with the ability to change. We are great believers in the power of our free will. We can overcome obstacles and grow deeper and stronger. If we really want to. And we really try.

And even where we can't seem to overcome the damage, where certain emotional responses are too deeply ingrained to be reversed, we can at least be aware of the true source of our behavior. And not let it cloud or distort our thoughts, actions or words.

Our inherent ability to change is taught early in the Torah, in a story that is also about taking responsibility for our actions. It's the famous tale of Cain and Abel. Abel brings an offering from the first of his flocks. Cain is less discriminating in his choice. Any offering will do. He demonstrates less gratitude, less appreciation. And his offering is rejected.

Needless to say, Cain is not pleased with this turn of events.
So the Almighty says to him, "Why are you annoyed, and why has your countenance fallen? Surely, if you improve yourself, you will be forgiven. But if you do not improve yourself, sin rests at the door. Its desire is toward you, yet you can conquer it."

Cain truly had no one to blame but himself - although he managed to turn on his brother instead. It's an old story.

Being an adult means the choices are ours to make. And the consequences ours to accept.

However we may have suffered at the hands of others, continuing to blame them for our poor choices only aggravates the wounds and exacerbates the harm.

Whiners are always focused on the negative.

The second problem with being a whiner (I'm sure when I read the book I'll discover many more) is that you can never enjoy life. Whiners are always focused on the negative.

Maybe there were some people that weren't nice to you. Why is all your energy directed towards them instead of at the ones who were?

Maybe not everything has worked out the way you would have liked. But what about the things that have?

If we persist in whining and concentrating on the negative, on not motivating ourselves to grow and change, some of our gloomy expectations will indeed come true. We will drive away everyone who cares about us through our unpleasant behavior and attitude. Then we will really have something to whine about.


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