The Battle of the Generation - Day 10
Our weekly excerpt from the book "The Battle of the Generation"
How do we turn our battles around? It seems that we will experience pain whether we give in or not. How can we avoid the pain and turn our battles into exhilarating experiences?
We must realize that having to face desires is far from a misfortune. When the yetzer hara challenges us with strong urges and we defeat him, we can actually feel fortunate for our challenges because of how much we gain when we overcome them. We perform some of the greatest feats by winning! There is nothing sweeter than the taste of success, especially when it really matters.
We all desperately want to feel good about ourselves. Wanting to feel that we matter is our deepest desire. From our youth, we dream of it. What boy doesn’t dream of hitting the game-winning home run in the World Series at least once? How many people wish they could be celebrities? This is the real, underlying drive behind many of our other drives.
Though not everyone actually dreams of being publicly honored and praised, most people experience the desire for honor in some way. Some people crave attention and popularity, so they enjoy showing off in front of others. Others desire to be the best at something, or they dream of being remembered as legendary. Even those who don’t have these dreams still care about what others think of them. Nobody wants others to look down on him. All these feelings stem from our desire to be special and great, a drive that Hashem placed within us for us to follow to greatness. We don’t want to feel insignificant! We want to be proud of ourselves! As long as we don’t believe the yetzer hara when it tells us that greatness is only for other people, we can use this drive to guide ourselves to greatness.
Feeling good about ourselves completely transforms our aspirations, our service of Hashem, and our entire lives. Although it is true that Hashem loves and values us even if we sin, it is difficult to feel good about ourselves if we know we lack self-control. But if we control ourselves and then think about the significance of a victory, we cannot help but feel good about ourselves. Self-control in the face of desire is rare. How often do people hold strong? When we control ourselves, we are doing something unique and impressive.
Acknowledging this drive for what it really is helps us understand why all the pleasures, money, and technological advancements we attain don’t make us happy. We long to be unique and significant, and this drive will not be satisfied with substitutes. Showing off and trying to impress others will never be satisfying if we are not happy with ourselves. We need to impress ourselves! And the only way to do that is to accomplish meaningful achievements.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could know that what we accomplished was impressive and unique? What if we had a path on which we could reach real greatness? Well, there is such a path: overcoming difficulties. The rule of thumb is that the more challenging the spiritual feat is for the person, no matter where he is holding, the greater the accomplishment. Mitzvos done despite tremendous challenges are not just considered a little better than mitzvos done when it is easy. Avos D’Rebbe Nosson (3:6) teaches us they are worth over a hundred times more!
Not only that, it is the Creator Himself who decides what is great and impressive, and He does not grade us by comparison to others but by how hard we work relative to the situation He placed us in. He holds us up high with pride and rewards us by letting us come close to Him, both in this world and the Next. There is nothing more meaningful than that!