Positive Vision - Day 22
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 22 - Outsmarting the Old One - Preparation Is Key
Chazal tell us that a person does not sin unless he is overcome by a spirit of foolishness. At the time of a nisayon, our rational selves go into “sleep mode” and we can do things that in hindsight we know are both bad and self-destructive. Preparation is therefore key to recognizing the faulty thought patterns generated by one’s yetzer hara. One very effective strategy of doing so is “role playing.”
Role-playing is a method of training in which people rehearse a scenario they will later face. It is used in situations when one wishes to avoid “on-the-job training” because of the risks involved. Instead, one uses a dress rehearsal to practice and train for the event. For example, the army prepares through the use of War Games, where soldiers simulate an actual war. [They cannot train on the job because it’s pretty much too late.] The army also uses technological simulations to prepare soldiers and pilots how to react under certain circumstances Role playing is used in sales training as well. A designated person acts as a recalcitrant potential customer and an agent practices making the sale.
Let’s use this means to prepare a response to nisyonos, because when faced with an actual test there is no time to collect one’s thoughts; even a moment’s hesitation will be exploited by the yetzer hara. By role-playing the yetzer hara )YH( and talking in his voice, we can familiarize ourselves with his “arguments” and prepare an inventory of swift and immediate responses to counter the yetzer hara’s justifications.
YH: I am under so much stress. I need an outlet. I am entitled to a little “chill” time. Hashem cannot be upset with me about this.
Response: I am doing this because I choose to do so - there is no other reason. I am responsible for my actions. I am just using this as an excuse.
YH: I have done this so many times; one more cannot make a big difference.
Response: Sounds good, but this same reasoning will always be there. If I agree with this argument, I’m basically saying that I will never stop.
YH: I know that I won’t be able to stop forever anyway. I’m eventually going to mess up and break my streak and it will all be worthless, so I may as well throw in the towel right now.
Response: I don’t have to stop forever. All I have to do is win today. How hard can that be? Even the worst drunk can stay sober for one day! I’ll deal with tomorrow tomorrow.
YH: I will take a peek just enough to satisfy my curiosity, and I will be able to control myself before things get out of hand.
Response: Really?! I know from experience that my real bechirah is only before I begin - once I start, it’s all over. Last time I told myself this, it was a complete failure. I simply cannot take the chance.
YH: I am not addicted and I am definitely planning to stop, but not yet. After this time I will really stop. Promise.
Response: How many times have I said this in the past? With this reasoning, I will always have a reason not to stop. Besides, if I’m stopping anyway, I may as well let it be now.
YH: I’ve been good for a week or more - so if I slip a bit now, it’s not all that bad.
Response: Why should I reward myself with something bad, with something that will set me back. I worked hard, too hard, to get here. I’ll find something else to interest me. The longer I maintain kedushah the easier it gets, so why make life harder after all the work I already invested.
YH: What I look at is not that bad. I know people who do much worse!
(I myself have done much worse!)
Response: Everyone who descends into real tumah begins with something more benign, thinking that he can control it. I myself have seen that by breaking fences I proceeded to much worse aveiros.