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Giving up on “Figuring it out”

obormottel Saturday, 03 June 2017

For many years, I tried to beat lust. If only I could figure it out, wrap my head around it, I would be able to control it. Many times, especially after falls or lots of pain, I was sure that I had finally internalized that it was SHEKER, that there was nothing there. I would find a new slogan or frame of mind that would keep me clean for another few weeks but, inevitably, the inspiration would wear off and I’d slip back into small-mindedness, craving, lusting, and acting-out. And that would make me even more depressed because I felt like I must be a bad person. If I had had such clarity about how empty and wrong it was, how could I fall for it again?! This would make me want to give up totally, thinking that my soul must be tainted and evil.

Until finally, one day, I had a deep realization that I will NEVER be able to figure it out. I will NEVER be able to “talk myself out of it” or convince myself how meaningless it is. I am powerless over lust, and I will inevitably keep falling back into it. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope; exactly the opposite. This realization is actually the foundation of REAL recovery. When we finally admit we can’t, we open ourselves up to a true dependence on the ONE who CAN. We become broken-hearted and turn to Him and say, “Father, I can’t do this. I’ve tried a million times and failed. Please hold my hand and don’t throw me away from you. When I lust, I am useless to myself, to others and to YOU. Please help me, because I know that I can’t do it myself.” It is this very brokenness and needing G-d that actually opens us up finally to His help.

And besides for the fact that He helps us, there’s also a paradigm shift in how we view slips and falls. A slip or fall doesn’t mean we are “bad,” it simply means that we are forgetting how powerless we are over this and how much we need His help. It’s not that we know how wrong it is and do it anyway – proving that we must be bad at the root. Because nothing we can ever “know” will stop us. We are simply forgetting how useless and unmanageable lusting makes our lives and how much we NEED G-d’s help and can’t do it alone.

A slip or fall in the past used to lead to a cycle. If I can’t stay clean, I’m bad and I’ve already lost it, so what the heck. But now it’s totally different. Yes, I had a slip. That’s who I am. I am powerless over this. All it means is that I must have forgotten how bad this is for me. I must be forgetting how much I need Hashem. I must try to remember how this ruins my life and how much I need Hashem’s help to stay clean.

And as soon as I turn to Him again in truth with a broken heart, He right away grasps my hand in His and we continue happily together…

Yaakov Responds:

Thank you for sharing this. You expressed it beautifully and it's very true. It is the same “Emes” that is found in the first few steps of the 12-Step program, (1) “Our lives became unmanageable and we are powerless” (2) We came to believe a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity (3) We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to His care…

In other words, there are only two prerequisites to succeeding in the impossible. (1) A realization that it is destroying our lives and that we can’t do it ourselves (2) Believing that Hashem can do it for us LETTING HIM.

Some people say a special “Yehi Ratzon” in the nussach of “Elokai Netzor” at the end of Shmoneh Esrei. It says there: “And save me from the Yetzer Hara, and put into my heart Emunah, subjugation and humility”. Why do these 3 ideas (yetzer hara, Emunah and humility) go together? Because the only way to be saved from the Yetzer Hara which is so much stronger than us, is through the broken-heartedness of knowing we can’t do it ourselves, and the EMUNAH that Hashem can and will, if we only WANT IT and turn to Him for help. As the pasuk in Tehillim says:

את המייחלים לחסדולא בגבורת הסוס יחפץ, לא בשוקי האיש ירצה... רוצה ה' את יראיו

“Not in the might of the horse does He desire, nor in the legs of the man does He want… Hashem wants those who fear Him, who HOPE to his kindness”…

We don’t have to work hard and fight the great battle. We just need to ask for His help with the awareness that we can’t do it ourselves.

Chazal say that at the end of days Hashem will slaughter the Yetzer Hara. Both the Tzadikim and Reshaim will weep. The Tzadikim will weep with joy and ask, "How did we conquer such a great mountain?" and the Reshaim will weep in pain and ask "how could we not have conquered such a small thread?"... The question is, why do the Tzadikim see the Yetzer Hara as a mountain and the Reshaim as a thread? How can they both be true?

Perhaps based on the idea above we can understand this idea too. The Yetzer Hara is indeed a great mountain that is INSURMOUNTABLE. However, Hashem doesn't ask us to conquer the mountain at all. He asks us only to want it, to turn to Him and hope to Him! When the Reshaim understand that fact finally, they weep because they could have just given over the fight to Hashem and trusted Him to help them. The problem wasn't that they couldn't, but rather that they didn't WANT to.

And so, this is the secret of success in all our struggles. If we only internalize this, we can be victorious over the great mountain by just stepping over this little thread.

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