Chesed SheBeHod. Love within Humility, Purpose, Gratitude, Splendor.
"I'm so grateful to be average today." What??? Those were the words my first sponsor in recovery said to me once upon a time. I can't even remember what caused her to say that to me, but I certainly remember the impact. "Average??" I thought, "I'm a soprano! There's no room for average!"
That was the beginning of my journey into understanding Humility. Humility is a word that is often confused with humiliation. Similarly, I had "average" confused with "not-so-great". I was taught that Humility is the ability to see ourselves exactly as we are in reality. This includes both the "not-so-great" qualities and the wonderful things about ourselves that give us each our own sparkle and shine. Being average, I was taught, means noticing that I may be better at some things than other folks, and not-so-skilled in other areas as these same folks. One thing that meant was that there was plenty of room for me to be the best soprano I can be. That was a relief! Another thing that it meant was that I did not get to hold myself superior to others due to my particular constellation of strengths.
Humility allows us to be open to possibility. It acknowledges that perhaps I don't know everything, including those things I think I know about myself. This is the sense in which Hod is Presence. It is in my moments of just being present, being open, keeping my mind clear (yes, usually in my morning Quiet Time) that I learn surprising things about myself. "Do it in a blog." That was one my recent great surprises. There I was in my Quiet Time on morning of Day 1 of this sacred time we are in. I had done my reading and personal writing the night before, as was my previous practice for the Omer, and those words popped into my head. When something like that comes up in my Quiet Time, I take it very seriously, as you can tell. Believe you me, this among a growing list of things that are among the last things I ever thought I would do!
When we are open and Present to these types of surprises, we are then in a position to feel a sense of Purpose and the Splendor that comes from surrendering to that. We feel our Splendor, and we feel the awe of the Splendor of the Source of all Blessings revealing Its/His/Her/Their love for us by revealing our true selves to us.
Now that we have explored Hod a little more in depth for the new week, let's look at the angle of the prism which is Chesed SheBeHod. Without Chesed, Love, Lovingkindness, Hod can be a downright dangerous thing. In 12 Step parlance, we talk of "defects of character". I know this is a phrase that makes many people cringe, if not steeped in this terminology. It sounds harsh, self-denegrating. One definition I've heard of this idea is that our defects of character are simply instincts gone awry. Let's take a closer look.
If we're seeing ourselves as we really are, we become aware of our highlights. This is important. I suppose it is related to the instinct that we need to be attractive to others in order to perpetuate life. Gone awry, it can be so easy to be seduced into the idea that our best qualities make us superior in some way. I'll freely admit, I'm not above this temptation! When looked at through the lens of Love however, the result is Gratitude. I don't know how it is that I ended up with my particular set of good qualities, but they are the things that make me uniquely useful, and for that, I am truly grateful. Seeing my good qualities through the lens of Chesed is, in fact, where I receive the impulse to make use of my good qualities. It is where I feel almost a sense of urgency to be used for Good by The One from whom I received these qualities.
Of course, seeing the warts in my character can be a quick path to the experience of humiliation. Again, that is not the point of the Humility of seeing our whole selves. If I see myself with Humility, I acknowledge the balance - the average - created by a mix of "good" and "bad". Perhaps better terms would be "refined" and "raw". I am no different from anyone else. "Oseh Shalom u'vorei et HaKol." G8d makes peace, wholeness and creates Everything. From our morning liturgy, these words have often been a great comfort to me in times of seeing uncomfortable truths about myself. These words tell us that there is nothing that does not contain the Divine Essence. If G8d gave me this less-than-savory quality about myself, there must be something in it from which I can learn and grow. It is something that simply needs to be refined. I am led back, once again, to Gratitude. I must look lovingly at myself when embarking on the journey of Humility, lest I end up at that other, mortifying destination of humiliation.
I don't think I need to say much about what happens when surrendering to a Higher Purpose is not infused with Chesed. At its worst, it can result in acts of horrific violence. Thankfully, most of us don't go this far when our sense of Purpose goes awry. It can, however, result in the alienation of those we love, and who love us. I am aware of this every day as I walk down the path that my gifts takes me down. My work is at night, on weekends, at odd times. I'm at rehearsals, doing homework, leading services, taking phone calls from others in recovery, blogging... My family needs to know that I am still there for them. I need to show this through my actions, not just tell them. Infused with Chesed, I will remember to keep reaching out to those around me to make sure they know they are still very much a part of my sense of Purpose.
Today, let us look lovingly at ourselves and at those around us, being aware of the gifts that each has to offer. Let us see the raw materials with compassion. Let us gather those we love into our sense of Purpose.
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