Am I being stopped from fulfilling my potential?


Can someone in our life redirect our God-given destiny? If this person, with or without any bad intention, succeeds in doing so to us, wouldn’t God’s first plan for us be cancelled?

I’ve been having these problems because in my house my dad often shows a bad temper, and many times his display of anger interferes with my plans. I was often afraid to proceed with my plans due to his anger to our family, including me. It’s like emotional contagion from him. I’m afraid I’m not fulfilling my God-given destiny. Please shed a light to this question.

Filemon G.


Dear Filemon,

Filemon, you don’t say how old you are and so we will try to give an answer that will give you some guidance whether you are a teenager or an adult. Obviously, the younger you are, the fewer choices you may have in what you can do, but no matter what your age you can work on what you think.

We could have a fascinating conversation over the course of many hours as to how free will works if God has a destiny planned for us. What happens to someone who is killed when they are young? Was that their destiny or did the killer’s free will interrupt their destiny? There are thousands of pages of ancient Jewish wisdom on this topic, so instead of a philosophical discussion that can’t even touch the tip of the iceberg, we would like to bring it down to a practical level. 

For whatever good reasons He had, God placed you in a particular home with a particular father. Part of the challenge of all our lives is to make the best out of our trying circumstances. Your destiny includes overcoming a difficult home life. Too many people in our society are content with complaining about their challenges and sadly see themselves only as victims of circumstance. Yet, history shows numerous examples of people who faced monumental hardships and used those hardships as springboards for greatness. 

We know of one determined young girl from an extremely dysfunctional family who started saving money from the time she was thirteen (her trusted grandmother kept the money for her) so that she could escape her home as soon as she turned eighteen. More than one successful author with burdensome family responsibilities carved out sacred time to write, though it was excruciatingly difficult to find those few hours a day. Whatever your short or long-term goals, you can start making progress right now. 

Very often, when we are under emotional stress, it is hard for us to see the right path to take. We encourage you to reach out to someone in person for wise spiritual guidance on how to balance conflicting obligations of respect for your father, support for your family, and responsibility for yourself.  

Wishing you strength, resilience, tenacity and faith in yourself,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin


15 thoughts on “Am I being stopped from fulfilling my potential?”

  1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    Dear Derald–
    Thanks so much for being a regular reader. We appreciate that. By the way, have you ever seen our TV show here: ?
    We too often refer to the example of Joshua and Caleb, the only two of Moses’ spies into Israel who returned with an inspiring report on the desirability of their destination and with confidence about the capture.
    The important thing to remember is that not only Joshua and Caleb and all the Israelites so long ago, but all of us right now and right here get to make our own decisions. Take the high road or the low. Preserve and sustain a feud or make peace. Think long term or for now. Interact with patience or temper. And we can never blame God or our destiny for making those decisions for us.
    Thanks again for writing; do stay in touch with us.

  2. This reminds me of Joshua and Caleb. They were two of the thousands of Israel–they wanted to instantly process God’s promises, but the majority turned away in their hearts back to Egypt. Was their destiny defeated, or did G-d use the difficulty to enhance their real destiny: the ability to offer godly leadership? Their having to wait and endure those wandering forty years in the wilderness honed what God was making in them.

    Derald, a fan and regular reader of the Lapins

  3. To me the author sounds like a child who is still under his father’s roof. I pray this child finds a trusted adult outside the home in whom to confide and seek counsel. Repetitive episodes of Anger can morph into emotional abuse too easily, and child abuse is not only immoral it is illegal.

    1. Have you seen the follow-up comment from Filemon? He is 23. Your point is still well taken and finding an outside trusted adult has given many children hope and the ability to overcome their circumstances.

  4. I found this letter helpful and it reminded me when I was faced with difficult times in my life with my family growing up. Nearly 3 decades have passed and I look back and laugh. My mother split when I was 6, never to see her again, and my father could have cared less about me. My family often labeled me as a “farbrekher” simply because I was very stand offish like a cat and never understood me. The one story that always came to my mind in difficult times, was of Moses. When the Pharaoh’s army caught up with Moses and the Jews at the Red Sea. It always stuck with me from reading that story that I could choose to do nothing with my life and sit there and let my family label me and eventually drive me insane or I could put faith in knowing things will work out if I press on. If I never succumb by knowing that G-d is tending to things and is maybe giving me a choice in matters to see how things play out. I am truly grateful to have had a Grandmother who was very patient and who taught me the world is a big place. Most importantly the saying of, “He that can’t endure the bad, will not live to see the good.” Anyways thanks.

    1. I’m sure your story will serve as an encouragement to many, Ian. It would be lovely if every child had a warm, safe and loving home and it’s tragic that isn’t so. However, a difficult beginning doesn’t have to be a life path. I hope that you share your story to give hope and direction to others.

  5. Thank you Rabbi Lapin for your answer. I’m the one who wrote this question. I’m actually 23 year olds. As the time goes by and after reading your answer, I began to understand that what really matters is our choice to move forward. I also understand what it means to be tough. Despite all my dad’s anger, I came to respect him and appreciate all he has done for our family. He’s a responsible man. Lesson learned that nobody’s perfect. Thank you Rabbi. I just want to let you know that I’m a regular listener to your podcast and show. You helped me a lot!


    Filemon Go

    1. Way to go Filemon. I’m proud of you, kid. Yes, I realize you’re 23, but for someone quite older responding…you have the whole world before you still. Stay courageous in your path as you follow His footsteps. For, ” a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

      1. Thanks a lot for your encouraging words! Haha
        As long as one is willing to stand strong and follow God’s words, I really believe they will find successes and happiness in their lives with their closest people.

        Maybe the reason someone thought I was younger is because English is not my second language. I’m an Indonesian writing from Surabaya, Indonesia.

        You should watch RDL’s show, Ancient Jewish Wisdom. It’s an amazing show!

  6. Greetings RDL, I am fascinated by your response. I suppose it stands to reason that some of God’s people just didn’t get it and chose to stay in Egypt. Please provide a reference from the bible and additional material I might acquire to read more on that

  7. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

    Thanks for writing. God did get His people out of Egypt but only the ones who really, really wanted to leave.

    1. What about when never-ending, unanticipated physical Accidents that take years to heal (if ever) repeatedly derail you?

      1. Yvonne, without minimizing the pain of unanticipated and unwelcome physical or psychological ‘accidents,’ our mindset can be that those may put us on a different path than we thought we were or should be on, but it’s not a derailment as much as switching to another track – the one we were meant to take. That’s not an easy switch, but it is one we can work on accepting and eventually possibly even celebrating. (Have you seen this inspiring story?

  8. A concerned person of faith

    First I would like to say that God is able to do His will in spite of us. Look at Pharoah. God got His people out of there.
    The second part of the question is of interest to me. I was in a marriage where anger was used to control. I finally realized that it ultimately was not God’s will for me to be mistreated, and prayed for help, and found a way out.
    In the second issue, it is important to understand that we alone are the ones that allow ourselves to be controlled by others. Once we realize we don’t want to be treated in this way, there are options.
    I hope you found an answer for good.

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