Positive Vision - Day 67
Rabbi Avrohom Neuberger
Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"
Day 67 - A Life of Control - A Life of Happiness
There is a great feeling of satisfaction in living a life of self-control.
Self-control, or discipline, suffers from an image problem. In its extreme form, it is associated with a person who is so highly self-disciplined that he is miserable. The caricature paints a picture of a person who lives a grim, joyless life marked by dutiful self-discipline. This strait-laced killjoy has no spontaneity or newness in his life and he never smiles. He is simply no fun.
This portrayal, however, is false because it depicts a person who has taken a middah to the extreme.
Under normal circumstances, exercising selfcontrol not only does not make you miserable, it makes you happy; and this is the surprising part ... not only in the long run, but also in the moment.
To elaborate: Disciplined people report more happiness in their lives than their impulsive counterparts. In a sense this is not surprising: People leading lives of self-control will ultimately be more satisfied since they more effectively realize their long-term goals. But most people would guess that the self-discipline types are less happy in the short haul because, until those goals are met, they are sacrificing the present. Delaying gratification would seem, by definition, to mean that you sacrifice happiness now for the sake of more happiness later on.
As it turns out, this is not true. Studies have shown that a person's self-denial does not interfere with his happiness. People with greater self-control report greater happiness in their lives even in the moment, even as they are delaying gratification.
The late Mashgiach of Yeshivas Mir, R' Yerucham Levovits, makes a fascinating point:
He asks: Who is the essential "You"? What is your core essence?
Is it your body? Well, it is certainly not your entire body for if, chas v'shalom, your finger is cut off, you would still be here. Perhaps, then, it is your heart? A person cannot live without a heart! That is true, but you can have a heart transplant and "You" would still be here. Perhaps it is your brain? After all, if you had a brain transplant and they would replace your brain with someone else's, then "You" would no longer be around; the original brain owner would be and he would be occupying your body.
Okay, so we now know that "You" must be strongly associated with your brain. No brain, no You.
Now, which part of your mind is the essential "You"? Is it your yetzer hara? I hope not. How about your yetzer tov? R' Yerucham writes that neither is the essential You. Hashem implanted both within You. But neither is You.
Who are You?
You are your capacity to choose and how you use that capacity.
The yetzer tov and yetzer hara are the mere backdrop against your choices. But that which is most closely identified as the essential You is your capacity to choose.
"Hakol b'yedei Shamayim chutz miyiras Shamayim - Everything is in the hands of Hashem except for fear of Hashem." Your choices are the essential you. When you exercise self-control you are tapping into the part of you that is most essentially who you are. Every time you control yourself, you are in fact coming alive. No wonder you are happy!