This week’s Middat HaShavuah is taken from our Torah portion, Parshat Miketz. The Middah is:
Key Verse: אֲשֵׁמִים אֲנַחְנוּ עַל-אָחִינוּ
Middah: Admit when you’ve done something to hurt someone
This week’s Parsha begins with Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. As a result of his favorable interpretation, Joseph is assigned to be second in command of Egypt – only Pharaoh is of higher rank. In time, Joseph’s brothers find themselves in Egypt, and come to Joseph for food. The brothers do not recognize Joseph. Joseph tests his brothers to see if they have changed. At this time, Joseph’s brothers finally admit to themselves that they hurt Joseph: “And they said to one another, ‘we are guilty concerning our brother; we saw the pain of his soul but we did not listen.” (Gen 42:21)
I had written previously that “sorry seems to be the hardest word” (see September 29th: https://www.torontoheschel.org/news-views/blog/message-from-moreh-alan). But before we apologize and ask for forgiveness, we have to recognize that we have done something wrong and that we have hurt somebody. Psychologists think that while it is difficult, learning to deal with admitting fault is extremely important to sustaining relationships and personal growth.
What are some reactions you can have to making a mistake? For one, you first need to become aware of it. Some people do not possess the self-awareness necessary to know that they have wronged people, or that they have misjudged a situation.
Additionally, not admitting to making mistakes limits one’s ability for self-improvement. In fact, some studies have shown that it’s important for a person to feel as if he/she can change his/her behavior before owning up to making a mistake.
It appears as though there are some who go through life never admitting their mistakes. However, psychologists believe that even these people do indeed accumulate subconscious feelings of guilt and shame, which may eventually turn into anxiety and depression.
Admitting that you made a mistake may not always feel good, but it can show others that you are compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, and a good listener. It also shows that you are capable of being objective about yourself, and that you are not ‘perfect’ or always right.
So, if you have done something that you aren’t proud of, go ahead and admit that you were wrong. Just like Joseph’s brothers, it can feel liberating and put you and everyone in your life on a path towards a better future.
Shabbat Shalom VeChag Urim Sameach!