For a growing number of people, admitting even the smallest mistake or sin brings a flood of unbearable shame.
They're often not conscious of it. Their mind jumps automatically to:
- "It's not my fault."
- "It didn't happen like that."
- "It wasn't that bad."
- "The other person is just being oversensitive."
- "I'm being misunderstood."
- "My words are being twisted around."
- "It's okay."
- "It doesn't matter."
- "It's not that big a deal."
- "I had a right to do it."
Needless to say, sometimes it really isn't your fault, it didn't happen like that, you are being misunderstood, your words are just being twisted around, etc.
That's not what I mean.
I'm talking about the times when it really is your fault, it did happen like that, it was that bad, and your words aren't just being twisted around.
Your bad qualities are not YOU.
Your bad inclinations, your nasty tendencies, your icky qualities?
They were imbued within you by Hashem.
You were born with them, and never got a chance to refine them. Maybe your upbringing really brought them out. Maybe your environment or specific events fed them to monstrous proportions.
Or maybe not. Maybe there are actually no monstrous tendencies buried deep within you, but the little flaws you do have feel like overwhelming monstrosities, even though they actually aren't.
Whatever type you are, the flawed aspects are not your fault and don't reflect the real you, but you do have the privilege of ridding yourself of them.
That's it in a nutshell.
Liberating Sparks of Glorious Light
Why would Hashem make a person passive-aggressive, sadistic, lazy, gluttonous, violent, sarcastic, jealous, vengeful, disloyal, mean, or anything else?
Well, there are reasons far beyond anything we can understand.
But metaphorically speaking, there are brilliant sparks of light trapped in the darkest of places.
To achieve both personal redemption and universal redemption, each person must go down to particular dark and filthy place in order to free that beautiful spark of light.
Does the world sometimes seem dark and hopeless?
Well, by releasing these tiny yet powerful sparks, you are adding incredible light to the world and making everything better for everyone (even if you don't perceive it).
By acknowledging any dark, ugly, shameful part of yourself (which again, isn't really you and isn't part of your holy neshamah), you are releasing that light and bringing illumination to the world (even if you can't see it).
In turn, that dark ugly shameful aspect becomes lighter, prettier, and glorified. In other words, it leaves you. You rectified it and now it's not a part of you at all anymore.
(And maybe you don't have any particularly awful aspects buried within you. Fine. Just work on whatever you do dig up.)
NOTE: This isn't for you to share with others. Another person has his or her own yucky stuff and may not be able to relate properly to yours, and vice-versa.
Furthermore, that trapped spark associated with your particular negative quality?
It can only be liberated by YOU.
Let's say you're gluttonous. Other gluttons can free the personal spark trapped in their particular gluttony, but they can't free yours even though you share the same negative trait. Your gluttony has its own particular stamp to it and only you can free that particular spark associated with your particular gluttony.
In a sense, you are the hero of your own story.
Lighting Up Your Soul
Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender mentions Rebbe Nachman's statement that Hashem loves a gepregelten Yid (a "fried" Jew), "which means a Jew who is completely cooked from one side to another by the burning bitter regret he merited" [Words of Faith, Vol.II, pg. 476].
Next time your mind starts to flee an uncomfortable truth in order to save you from that horrible feeling of overwhelming burning shame, try to remember that this very sensation is exactly what saves you and cleanses you.
This releases that glorious trapped spark of light.
This burning shame, which otherwise leads to self-hatred, is actually what makes Hashem love you more.
If you feel burning shame, try to be happy about it. It's an excellent sign! Realize that at the moment you might feel so disgusted with yourself, Hashem is happiest with you.
I think the first time is the most grueling. After that, it gets easier.
And the bad things you've done aren't you.
Regardless of how you may feel and what others may tell you about yourself, your bad actions and bad traits aren't actually YOU.
You are your pure and holy neshamah.
The stuff you feel ashamed of (or in denial of) are simply the casings for some beautiful hidden sparks waiting to be freed.