Timeless Jewish Wisdom for the Facebook Generation
Six practical ways to build inner peace.
The quality of our relationships has been in steady decline. 632 Facebook friends but not one true friend to call in middle of the night does not a friendship make. Anxiety has become the new depression. College kids fill the mental health clinics on campus. The former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy wrote in Harvard Business Review that patients came to see him partly because they were lonely and partly because loneliness made them sick. “The most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.”
Teens spend more time alone with their phones and are less likely to go out and socialize. The more hours spent on one’s screen the more reported unhappiness. It feels as if everyone is out having a party but me.
I’ve watched parents and children side by side not exchanging one word. Both compensate for their poor connection by mindlessly looking through their phones.
This is the time of the year that we begin to read Ethics of the Fathers. All around us the earth is stirring as nature surprisingly comes to life again. The force of renewal is alive and this same energy exists within us.
Here are six thoughts from the teachings of Ethics of the Fathers that will help us build inner peace.
1. Receive Everyone With A Cheerful Face (Ethics, 1:15)
We forget how much it means to give a smile, a happy greeting. We’ve become so used to texting or navigating life face down, the art of face-to-face connection has been lost. How many people really look at each other while speaking? A huge part of connecting is making eye contact, noticing the impact your words make, lifting someone’s spirit with your voice or even the way you say hello.
It takes just a moment to have the people around you feel cherished. It’s not really difficult.
“Receive everyone” – look up and notice people. “With a cheerful face” – and make it a habit to smile at others. Be a source of joy to the world.
2. Acquire a Friend for Yourself (Ethics, 1:6)
We are not advised to collect friends like souvenirs but rather to wisely acquire one precious friend. Whether it be socially or the connection between husband and wife, a good friend enhances our lives.
Friends are loyal. Friends share joy and sorrow so that life is sweeter. Friends don’t gossip about one another. Friends give good words and encouragement. Friends listen. Friends don’t look down at each other. Friendship requires time and presence. It is one of the best investments you will ever make.
3. Do Not Anger Easily (Ethics, 2:15)
We lose ourselves when we are angry. We say things we don’t mean and cause pain. We do things out of anger that afterwards we cannot believe.
Someone who is easily enraged loses his peace. He ends up spending time alone because others do not want to be with him. It is not easy to control one’s temper. How can we combat being quick to anger?
Pay attention to the trigger moments that set you off. Recognize the feeling that comes just before you are about to erupt. If you need to take a breath to collect yourself or excuse yourself, do it. Harness your rage. Think well before you speak from emotion. Be mindful of your tone. You will feel your inner strength grow.
4. Distant Yourself from a Bad Neighbor (Ethics, 1:7)
Our friends and companions influence us, positively and negatively. No matter how strong we believe ourselves to be, we are impacted by the people we spend time with. Their choices of language, vices, conversation and how they treat others makes a difference in our lives. Coming close to a person who makes poor moral choices is like breathing in spiritual pollution. It is toxic.
Think about who you associate with.
5. Do Not Judge Your fellow Until You Have Reached His Place (Ethics, 2:5)
How easy is it to cast judgment on another. Look at all the spiteful comments that fill social media and the snarky remarks making fun of people. We don’t realize how quick we are to speak arrogantly against another.
Our sages teach us that until we stand in someone’s place we are clueless. “Reaching his place” means that we have complete understanding of his childhood, his nature, his family, and his struggles. Can anyone ever possess such a window into the life of another?
Of course not. Then how can we possibly cast judgment?
6. Who is Rich? One Who Is Happy with His Lot (Ethics, 4:1)
Watching other people’s lives strips us of our joy. Comparing people’s vacations, homes, families and sushi platters is a meaningless way of losing sight of one’s blessings. FOMO and anxiety has become the plague of our generation. Emotions of jealousy eat at serenity.
There are superstars who live mega big lives but lose themselves to addictions, loneliness and lack of self-worth. Somehow they are never happy.
Be content with what you have. Be grateful. Cherish the people in your life. Make the most of each day. Live with purpose. Wealth is really the appreciation of one’s blessings.
We are fortunate to have this sage advice to help us live better, to be stronger. Take a few moments and look through Ethics of the Fathers. You will discover the spiritual compass that will brings you closer to a life of connection and joy.