If you are like one out of three people in the world currently under stay-at-home orders, the question of how to make this situation meaningful becomes relevant.
The surge of the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing humanity to realize how much we depend on each other. It sent us home not only to stop the further spreading of the virus, but to also stop us further infecting the world with our troublesome and exploitative interactions, where we each sought to build ourselves on the ruin of others. Our imbalanced relations negatively impact the other levels of nature — still, vegetative and animal — and nature reacts to our harmful influence by striking us with certain blows in order to try and spur us into balance with it.
How to Find Inner Strength
Home, then, becomes the laboratory for fixing our imbalance with nature by first practicing harmonious relations with others. It is the place where we can start thinking about how to become more considerate to each other. But as time passes, we can easily become impatient. Maintaining a positive attitude becomes more complicated as the ego — the will to receive for self-benefit alone — increases, until we cannot get along with each other anymore. The broken ties between us create rifts and quarrels, arguments and confrontation.
The wisdom of Kabbalah, known also as the wisdom of connection, explains that such states are opportunities to rise above those conflicts and bring about cohesion and mutual understanding. As it is written, “Each one helps the other, and says to his brother, ‘Be strong!’” (Isaiah, 41:6.) In other words, by constructing appropriate relations among us, by helping, supporting and encouraging the other, we will acquire the required inner strength to do good in the world, beginning with those closest to us.
And the Kabbalists advise: Show affection and care. Do it with your utmost effort. Do it openly and even artificially until the habit becomes your second nature. How can we even hear such advice, never mind implement it, if it counters how the heart feels? We will become ready to submit when we realize that there is no other way and the alternative is to live our lives like prisoners in our own homes. Conversely, we can accept this lockdown as an opportunity to examine what we should correct in our attitudes to each other in order to live more fulfilling lives.
Kids Will Be Kids, Adults Should Not
We might wonder where children will find the strength to overcome their burning desire to act contrary to their natural desire. How, for example, can children become ready to make concessions in order to find common ground and understanding? It can be achieved when we raise them with our example. If adults demonstrate altruistic behavior, not acting like stubborn children themselves, but showing examples of love, care and giving to each other, then children will imitate such examples and grow up to behave similarly.
It is quite complicated but parents should ideally urge children to make such concessions. It is because, if they manage to do so, they will enter into a much calmer and happier state. We should thus explain to them (and also to ourselves): “Do you think that you will gain more if you are stubborn?” “Will it benefit anyone if you refuse to give in?” “Will you gain any lasting advantage if you try and force the other to yield?”
They will likely nod their heads in agreement after a second. The principle is relatively easy to comprehend, but difficult to execute. Human nature, the will to receive, resists it. What, then, can be done to help overcome our nature? The answer: Organize a supportive environment, create an atmosphere that will help the children (and ourselves) to overcome and exit the ego, and give in for a common benefit.
When both you and your children are tired of hearing about such compromises, then we should once again explain to ourselves: “When we combat our ego instead of someone else’s, the triumph will be sweeter and more pleasant.”
However, we cannot just hand them hollow instructions. We need to dig deeper by ordering our own selfish nature to renounce itself in exchange for mutual gain. By doing so, we develop a fresh approach to making compromises, building within ourselves this characteristic for a higher purpose. We become ready to concede to the whole world. Why? It is in order to calm it down and bring it the same power of compromise, the power to balance our struggles. Thus, as we teach our children, we also educate ourselves, and rise to a higher level of mutual consideration and responsibility by doing so.
Gradually, we will start seeing that all of our family members succeed in canceling their will vis-à-vis the other, giving in for the benefit of the whole family with a smile, calmly and pleasantly. When we acquire this power to make concessions, we will be able to spread this ability from a smaller unit through to society at large. Then, everyone will start thinking and acting for everyone’s benefit instead of trying to pull others to benefit each one individually. And by doing so, everyone will receive what is required for their life, just like in a family.