Thursday, June 28, 2012

Actions Affect Feelings

Actions Affect Feelings
Now that you're feeling so warmly toward the entire human race, how can you deepen your love for someone? The way God created us, actions affect our feelings most. For example, if you want to become more compassionate, thinking compassionate thoughts may be a start, but giving tzedaka (charity) will get you there. Likewise, the best way to feel loving is to be loving ― and that means giving.
While most people believe love leads to giving, the truth (as Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler writes in his famous discourse on loving kindness) is exactly the opposite: Giving leads to love.
What is giving? When an enthusiastic handyman happily announces to his non- mechanically inclined wife, "Honey, wait till you see what I got you for your birthday ― a triple-decker toolbox!" that's not giving. Neither is a father's forcing violin lessons on his son because he himself always dreamed of being a virtuoso.
True giving, as Erich Fromm points out, is other-oriented, and requires four elements. The first is care, demonstrating active concern for the recipient's life and growth. The second is responsibility, responding to his or her expressed and unexpressed needs (particularly, in an adult relationship, emotional needs). The third is respect, "the ability to see a person as he [or she] is, to be aware of his [or her] unique individuality," and, consequently, wanting that person to "grow and unfold as he [or she] is."
These three components all depend upon the fourth, knowledge. You can care for, respond to, and respect another only as deeply as you know him or her.