Positive Vision - Day 65

Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"

Day 65 - Not Now! - The Power of Postponement

About thirty years ago, a family looking for a yeshuah approached Rav Bransdorfer of the Eidah Hachareidis in Yerushalayim. He suggested that the family focus on shmiras halashon, and proceeded to outline the rules of what eventually became known as the Machsom L’fi (lit., a muzzle for my mouth) program. The concept was for a group of people to accept upon themselves to refrain from improper speech for a given two hours each day. Thirty years later, the Machsom L’fi initiative is thriving and becoming ever more popular.

Let’s examine why the program is so successful, and whether we can derive lessons from its success to help our battle for shmiras einayim.

Why is Machsom L’fi effective? In addition to the incredible zechusim it generates for all those involved, the Machsom L’fi works in many ways:

1. Consistency: A person reminds himself every day bar none to guard his tongue. There is nothing like an everyday boost to effect real change.

There are many compilations that have been published recently that aim to strengthen one’s shmiras einayim. Studying these each day, consistently, will certainly have a powerful effect.

2. One commits to a small manageable goal. Try telling yourself “I’ll never speak lashon hara again!” and you may as well surrender immediately. But when the commitment is for just a two-hour period, one can taste success. Rabbi Chaim Volozhin reportedly commented on the verse, the superiority of man over beast is naught: A person is greater than an animal with his capacity to say “No!” A small manageable goal allows one to tap into this capacity.

If one commits to guard his eyes for a period of time, say during his commute, he will certainly have the same benefit.

3. Controlling oneself for two hours strengthens the self-control muscle and allows one to build up strength and to maintain even longer periods of self- control.

4. By focusing on not speaking lashon hara each day, one’s level of awareness and diligence increases appreciably for the entire day. Awareness is the first step in personal growth.

This is clearly applicable to shmiras einayim as well.

5. Many Machsom L’fi group members accept upon themselves small consequences if they fail, such as giving a small sum of money to tzedakah. This strategy aids in discouraging lashon hara.

6. An incredible benefit that becomes apparent to anyone who joins a Machsom L’fi is that by postponing the aveirah of speaking lashon hara, one is much less likely to speak that bit of lashon hara later. Lashon hara that has been delayed for an hour loses its luster. Once the person refrains from sharing gossip when it’s “hot” and the moment passes, he will most often not speak it altogether.

This same dynamic is most certainly in play with regard to ta’avah as well, which is most powerful in the moment. A powerful strategy for shmiras einayim thus emerges: Postpone. Tell yourself, “I will just not do this now.” I need not refrain from doing so forever, just not right now.

Several years back there was a national campaign to resist dangerous substances. The slogan was “Just Say No!” As it turns out, the slogan was wrong. It was too demanding. And it is not the way to successfully delay gratification. It should have been, “Just Say, Not Now!” When faced with a nisayon, one should bear in mind that the moment of full blown ta’avah is fleeting. As long as you distract yourself, get up and move to a different area, etc., you will likely discover that the desire was fleeting and illusory.

It would seem then that the Machson L’fi program has many aspects that may work for shmiras einayim as well. Perhaps the time has come for men to make a parallel program for shmiras einayim.

User Comments:

I asked yesterday Why working on shmiras halashon helps for shmiras haris too. Thanks for the very clear answer today! Keep on the amazing work!!!

This was excellent! It would be interesting if people tried a "machson l'einoyim" where they commit themselves to just 1 hour of refraining. If a person says to themselves that for this hour I wont watch stuff, regardless if he even watches anything in the hour or not, can really make a difference on him. A real positive impression that he overcame that one hour and surely he can do more

Very powerful and realistic