Friday, January 28, 2011

Shabbat Shalom! What to Do When People Are Crazy

Some people might think this is a downer of a Shabbat shalom post, but it was certainly liberating for me!

Quite simply, other people's problems are just that: other people's problems. I don't worry about people who don't follow halacha (or follow it differently) or judge me as a convert or any of that other stuff. Their opinion simply doesn't matter. And just because one rabbi "yanks" your conversion doesn't mean that anyone else will accept that revocation as being valid. (After all, you should still have the original conversion paperwork. And note: only your converting rabbi can unilaterally yank your conversion; anyone else needs to convene a beit din.) There's more than one rabbi in this world! Just like there is more than one community in this world! And while we (converts) talk a lot about rabbis questioning conversions, it is usually limited to "the usual suspects," and the rabbis who matter will know that.

I admit that I have a much tougher skin than most converts I know, but I would also say that I am possibly the happiest and most content one that I know (and I'm not even done with my orthodox conversion yet!). Working in divorce/child custody law and being in the Jewish world has taught me a mantra that I use whenever someone tries to force their crazy on me: "People are crazy." I say that out loud, take a deep breath, and move on. Their crazy (usually) doesn't affect my life unless I let it.

Growing a tough skin would absolutely be my strongest advice to any convert in any movement. But it doesn't have to make you callous, dismissive, or distant. It's just letting the water roll off your back. Hear their crazy, acknowledge it in an appropriate way (which may mean calling them out on a halachic argument or racist comment, as two examples), and move on. Nine times out of ten, they're not a bad person; they're just misinformed or ignorant.

Of course, the other side is that this argument blames the victim: everything would be better if you just changed your perspective. To a point, yes, that's blaming the victim. However, no matter how crazy I think someone is, there is almost never a good reason for pointing out their crazy, and most of the time that'll fall under lashon hara anyway. Of course, if you get to the point of saying, "People are crazy," then the other person is probably violating at least one ethical/interpersonal mitzvah.

Basically, even if you're in the right, most of the time it isn't worth pursuing. Your sanity may sometimes require you to walk away from "being right."

And if all else fails, shut your mouth and daven (pray)! The serenity prayer is a good option:
G-d grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Shabbat shalom! May you find calm and peace in the beauty of Shabbat!


  1. Hey! What about me? I'm confident and happy :P

    Shabbat shalom, toots!

  2. I didn't say I was the only one, I said I'm just the MOST happy! :P