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Sizing up the Situation

Rabbi Kirzner once taught me a tremendous concept about friendship. There are times when a person feels that in order to teach a friend that he is bothersome in some way, he will stop being that person's friend. This act, he rationalizes, will teach the other person that they are wrong, and the other person will change.

Withholding friendship this way is a mistake. Kindness to others, Rabbi Kirzner said, is not optional. It is a commandment from G-d. I would say that friendship is a type of kindness that we give others by their being comforted and supported, doing them favors. It can be teaching and learning from them things you or they would not be able to stand hearing from other people. If someone has a good feeling about you, they might be talking to you in their thoughts when you are not even around, so you are helping them even when you don't have time.

Rabbi Kirzner said that to distance oneself from a friend would be appropriate if they were dangerous to one's well being. But the idea of teaching them a lesson by not being their friend is to lose sight of how tremendous a mitzvah friendship and kindness is.

By the way, I heard an interesting story yesterday that taught me about the power of speech. A man started by saying that he would want his parents to live with him and his family, but there was a difficulty. It weems his wife, an orphan, had become very close to his mother after they got married. Then, one day his mother was angry at his wife, so she told her other son, this man's brother, a couple secrets that she had been told by this man's wife. Ever since then, his wife feels like she has to be very careful with what she says when her mother-in-law is in the house. So now, he felt funny about the idea of his mother coming to live with them.

I don' t know if the reader can see this, but in a few sentences that transpired years ago when the mother had gotten angry one time in her whole life, she set off a chain reaction drastically changed the lives and future of an entire family, her own family. Imagine the difference in quality of a life shared by children with their grandmother living with them, seeing their parents and grandparents close and close knit, comfortable sharing everything they experienced. Instead, by losing trust through speech, the whole complexion of their family life has been altered forever.

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