This essay is designed to get one to think critically—to look beyond the superficial and the obvious. Why not spend 15-30 minutes or so—with a loved one, if possible—examining the idea in question, discussing possibilities and alternatives. Then see what the author has to say and whether you agree with him. (There are no right answers–just opinions.)
Which three words seem most important to the betterment of society?
a. "I Love You."
b. "Up Your Nose."
c. "I Need Help."
d. "Where’s The Beef?"
a. I love you is arguably the most misunderstood, misused, misinterpreted, overrated expression in all of mankind. Far too often, it is stated mechanically without any feeling behind it. In the worst case, it is used calculatingly—and deceitfully— for its effect and personal gain. Then too, it is so overused as to become meaningless. (I mean, how many plays in a baseball game can be called "great"?) Moreover, because being "loved" satisfies a major psychological need, in a budding relationship, its expression, too often, results in an overnight change in feelings by the recipient; resulting in the ultimate irony of rejecting the person whose very words were so longed for moments earlier.
b. Up your nose is direct if crude. Direct is a good thing, a very good thing! It lets the recipient know where she/he stands; it allows for reasonable decision making in a society where obfuscation seems the norm; it shows courage on the part of the individual in risking confrontation. But crude is not the best way of doing things. It is perceived as definite and final; it is hurtful, demeaning, and will only evoke animosity in the strong or subservience in the weak—inconsistent with betterment of humankind.
d. Where’s the beef is a good question, informationally AND ethically. For it is the questions we don’t ask as a society that allow us to follow irresponsible, foolish, or even wicked individuals who, having achieved some power, lead us into the mire of quicksand we often find ourselves in. It is likewise good to make one show evidence for his/her spouting. It is good to stand tall for justice. And because of the richness of our English Language, it can also be used to calm and to heal [Read: What are you getting so excited about?] or to make someone laugh. (Remember Wendy’s commercials?).
c. I need help is the best answer in this author’s opinion, although it seems almost the antithesis of the objective, First, in requesting help, the individual demonstrates humility, which Scripture clearly indicates is a very important desire on the part of the Divine. Second, it allows another to feel needed. In my view, that is exceedingly beneficial, as being needed makes us feel alive and gives our life meaning; contrast the joy of the young mother attending to her infant versus the despair of the old man/woman, former executive VP, now alone in a nursing home and fortunate if her/his children visit once a year. But MOST IMPORTANT, within the simple I need help each individual, knowingly or not, has the capability of planting the seed that could bring about ultimate Redemption*** and is the most compelling reason why these three words are so critical.
On what basis can one make that statement? It is built upon the idea best echoed by Maimonides:
A person must see himself and the world as equally balanced on two ends of a scale. By doing one good deed, he tips the scale and brings for himself and the entire world redemption and salvation. (Laws of Repentance 3-4)
That is, by asking for help we are initiating an Opportunity for the Exercise of a Choice. And who is to say that God did not long ago decide that when the number of ethically "good" choices (helping one’s neighbor) is 1 greater than the number of ethically "bad" choices (turning away), redemption and salvation would follow!
Accordingly, it behooves us to concern ourselves with EACH and EVERY ethical decision we make, however trivial it seems. At the same time, we should take great encouragement in that each of us, whether born into great poverty or great wealth, is capable of changing the world!_______________________________