Posts tagged " relationships "

When is ‘connecting with others’ a mistake?

April 27th, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

I accept your teachings of God’s desire for his children to interact with one another and am intellectually exploring those ideas.  As a gifted software engineer interacting with other humans is not one of my strengths and I am attempting to get better at it.

Over the past couple of years, however, I felt the need to disassociate myself with two former friends.  One was quite close; the other lives two doors away from me.  Without getting into gossipy details, I feel there are a certain set of circumstances that it is okay to disassociate from another human.  One example might be that the friend was asking your assistance in carrying on an extra-marital affair.  Another might be that the friend had anger issues and regularly yelled at you, your wife, and your children.  But what if their actions were less harmful?  What if a person regularly insulted you?  Regularly asked you to work on his for profit business for free?   Ran a business where both he and the employees knowingly broke the law?  

So what principles should be applied to harmful human associations?  Where is the line drawn?  What kind of venues should be left open for reconciliation?

Peter B.

Answer: 

Dear Peter,

Thank you for writing with such self-awareness.  Many very competent people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics feel less capable in human relationships.  We think there should be a special course helping these talented people expand their considerable abilities into relationships.  We know of what we speak. One of us (that would be Rabbi Daniel) actually became an electronics engineer. Worried that 10 hours a day in a lab with instruments would encourage a disconnect from people he switched into sales and became what they called then, a tech-rep.

While we certainly speak glowingly of the importance of human relationships, we hope that no one interprets our words to mean that we should have unthinking interaction with others. In fact, one of the episodes on Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show Volume 2 discusses the dangers of associating with the wrong people.

Ancient Jewish wisdom even presents certain rare circumstances where an entire community should shun individuals. The instances you give of people trying to lasso you into participating in their wrongdoing or supporting their wrongdoing suggest good reasons for pulling away from those relationships. We’d just like to add that the “less harmful” examples you ask about sound quite harmful to us.

Having said that, sometimes a bit more forcefulness and forthrightness can keep a relationship from ending unnecessarily. On occasion, avoiding confrontation results in prematurely ending a relationship. For example, someone who keeps asking you to work for free on their business might benefit more from an outright polite but firm statement that you can’t do that rather than an evasive, “I’m really busy right now,” which encourages them to repeat the request. Some people come from a culture where insults show friendship and closeness. Stating that you aren’t comfortable with that type of exchange might allow you to maintain a cordial relationship.

Like most things, relationships fall into different categories.  There is a large gulf between bosom buddies and ‘cross to the other side of the street’ people you need to avoid. Most people fall into the spectrum between those two extremes.

Enjoy the variety,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Do I have to become a people person?

March 1st, 2017 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 18 comments

Question:

When growing up, it seemed reasonable that some people liked to build and tinker with things as opposed to interacting with other people.  I became an engineer and am quite happy working with things rather than others.  My like-minded brother thinks we should build on our strengths and not be dragged down by spending time trying to eliminate our weaknesses.

I recently was exposed to attachment theory, the bonding to a person’s mother in the first year of life.  There is a category of attachment called avoidant attachment.  People with avoidant attachment generally remember little about their childhood and have relationship difficulties.  I feel this applies to me.  As I understand it, God has preprogrammed development to happen in stages.  Once that stage is passed, it is very difficult to recover it.  As an example, there is a window in which children learn to speak.  If they are deprived from talking with others during this period, then it is almost impossible for them to learn later how to make the necessary sounds used in normal speech.  Similarly, if we did not learn how to have relationships when we were quite young, it seems futile to try and develop that ability when we are older.

My brother and I seem to fall in line with the comment from Linus of Charlie Brown: “I love mankind, it is people I can’t stand.”  Like most (if not all introverts), I find interacting with people to be draining and eventually need to be alone.  My brother is quite content with considering himself a non-people person and feels no need to attend family functions.  I am trying to process the concept that God created man to be relational and that being a non-people person is a “defect” that needs to be corrected.

So my question is what is your thought about being a non-people person?

Richard M.

Answer: 

Dear Richard,

Thank you for writing and expressing your question in such an articulate way. Our guess is that quite a few people will be nodding in agreement as they read your question. 

Without writing a dissertation in response, we would like to explore some of your premises. We agree that God created humans to best and most easily be open to certain things at defined stages of our lives. The example you gave, of acquiring language, is one such reality. However, while we might need to work much harder at another stage of life and possibly never have the same proficiency as we might have developed at the best time, that is very different from saying that we should not even try if a window has passed. 

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Is My Gut Instinct Right or Wrong?

November 30th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 15 comments

Question:

I have a question about dating.  I am a old fashioned kind of guy in a modern world.  I am a millennial, but I like the old fashioned way of doing things.  I am at conflict a lot in relationships because of this.  

One of the more recent conflicts involves whether or not me and my girlfriend should be at each others places, alone.  We each live alone, and could visit each other whenever, but I wonder if that is a good idea, or if we should keep the dating in the public space, as that might be more appropriate for Christian dating.  I need to know what is proper, and what might be overdoing it on my part and being too restrictive.  I appreciate your help.  

Justin

Answer: 

Dear Justin,

Thank you for being an old-fashioned guy; we don’t see ‘old-fashioned’ as pejorative. Au contraire it is a tribute and our daughters along with countless Godly young women also see it this way.  This country needs more old fashioned gentlemen. 

By proactively thinking about how you and your girlfriend should behave now, you are setting the foundation for a successful relationship in the future, or alternatively for ending a relationship without unnecessary hardship and regrets. Either of these are satisfactory outcomes.

Ancient Jewish wisdom includes a timeless truth known as yichud. That Hebrew word derives from the root of togetherness. Yichud stipulates that men and women who aren’t immediate family members should not be secluded together. 

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I Hate My Girlfriend’s Tattoo

November 10th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

Question:

I am very much in love with my girlfriend and I want to marry her. Recently, she got a tattoo on her left wrist that I do not like whatsoever. I am trying to get over it but the idea of looking at it the rest of my life is not thrilling.

I keep telling myself it is not a big deal but why do I loathe it so? She did not get it behind my back. Due to some miscommunication she got it anyway. We have had several conversations before about how I do not like them.

Do you have any advice for me to try and get over this faster?

Luke

Answer: 

Dear Luke,

We’re not crazy about answering questions with our hands tied behind our back.  That is what you’re doing by asking us to help you get over this. Perhaps that is the direction in which you should go, but we would be remiss if we didn’t suggest that the depth of your loathing (your word) demands that you rethink your premise.

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I’m Burnt Out

October 13th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 11 comments

Question:

After a few years of over-working and ignoring the warning signs, I may have reached a “burnout” stage. What used to be easy at work is now difficult; the drive I used to have feels like it has been sapped; and I have noticed a negative change in my attitude. 

Does ancient Jewish wisdom provide any useful information for recovering from “burnout” and metaphorically get back in the saddle?

Justin A.

Answer:

Dear Justin,

Congratulations on recognizing that ignoring your warning signs resulted in a small problem growing into a larger one. We hope that your words serve as a warning to others not to turn a blind eye to warning signs. (Then there are those people who magnify a bad stretch and put flashing red lights on normal feelings—the opposite of what you did which leads to a different but equally serious problem.)

Imagine if you had physical symptoms that suggested that you were pre-diabetic. At that point, certain lifestyle changes might keep the symptoms from worsening and a full-fledged case developing. However, once your health was severely compromised, it would be much harder to fix.

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Did you say what I think you said?

May 28th, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

I was somewhat taken back by your answer to Diane – the woman in her 60’s who was being disturbed by the neighborhood children. I basically agree with your response to the noise level issue but thought your advice that she form friendships first before expecting the children to respect and not damage her property just encourages the idea that one only has to be respectful of property to those she knows and/or likes.

Is this right?

∼ Leslie

Answer:

Dear Leslie,

Thanks for giving us a chance to elaborate on our answer. We are all obligated to respect other people’s property whether or not we know or like the person. That is a basic timeless truth of Scripture. In fact, ancient Jewish wisdom says that those who treat other people’s belongings casually will end up treating other people’s lives casually as well. Shall we say that we aren’t surprised that after the mayor of Baltimore adopted a, ‘we’ll let them destroy property’ attitude, the violence did not end with vandalism; it continued on to bloodshed.

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