(And yes, sometimes this declaration is made softly with an apologetic smile.)
Either way, it's a way of permitting oneself to indulge one's lesser character traits. In other words, despite the cheerfully complacent presentation, this attitude is actually a form of despair.
On its uglier side, this type of declaration leaves one's victims with no recourse. How can you respond to someone who after hurting you, slaps you with that kind of declaration?
Yet Judaism encourages us to be happy and hopeful at all times, even though we may be far from tzidkut.
Breslov philosophy in particular emphasizes the importance of living in a state of joy, regardless of how many times you plunge into yet another character failure.
You're supposed to realize that your flaws are from God, whether you were born with them or whether you developed them due to a combination of nature and environment.
Furthermore, Rebbe Nachman introduced the story of The Clever Man and the Simple Man, with the Simple Man displaying contentment with his inability to produce a wearable shoe. Wasted leather, nails, and time went into 3-sided shoes that no one could use.
The analogy of the 3-sided shoe is our service of Hashem and our work on rectifying ourselves and polishing up our middot. Even as we stumble and crash on our face, we should still maintain an attitude of emuna and march on cheerfully.
How is that different than the Declarations of Despair uttered above?
The Simpleton knows the 3-sided shoe is unacceptable!
And he doesn't go around forcing people to wear his unwearable creations, nor does he demand anywhere near a normal price from those who do deign to wear his 3-sided shoes.
His main belief is that one day, he'll be able to make a proper shoe.
He wants to make a proper shoe.
But for some reason, no matter how hard he tries, it just doesn't go.
But he is trying!
And eventually, he succeeds beyond shoes and beyond anyone's wildest expectation.
So let's pare this down:
Boastful/Complacent "That's just how I am/we are in my family!" Self-Acceptance:
- Sees no hope for any improvement.
- Sees no need for any improvement
- Shows no desire for improvement
- Doesn't make any attempt at improvement
- Shows pleasure about their lack of effort
- Forces the burden of their faulty actions onto others
Emuna-Based "This is just how I am right now, despite my best efforts" Contentment
- Knows one can be much better!
- Very aware of the need for improvement
- Very desirous of improving
- Continuously tries to improve
- Takes pleasure in the emuna that Hashem is right there and that things will improve eventually
- Takes responsibility for how actions affect others while recognizing that Hashem is orchestrating things
Complacency and contentment are often confused, but really they're two different species.
Despair brings complacency
Emuna brings contentment.
May we always act with emuna.