So yes, if someone was mean and nasty to you, it could mean that you are mean and nasty to others (when you think you're just being "honest" or "funny" or "self-protective" or "helpful" or "just giving them what they deserve"). And that now you need to remove the klippah of "mean and nasty" in order to allow the real kind and compassionate you to shine through.
It could also mean that you haven't been mean and nasty per se, but that in some tiny way, you haven't been as kind or compassionate as God expects you to be.
However, it could also mean that you're being mean and nasty to yourself.
No Self-Abuse Allowed
- abuse yourself (cutting, addictions, anti-hygiene, masochism, etc.)
- kill yourself
- speak lashon hara (slander) about yourself
- see yourself as all bad or as innately bad
As discussed in previous posts, authentic teshuvah and self-improvement requires you to find at least one good point in yourself.
So if someone is unforgiving of you (no matter how hard you've tried to make amends, no matter how much genuine remorse you feel, and no matter whether you may not have done something - or anything - so bad), it could be that you need to work on forgiving yourself.
If you find yourself facing killjoys and critics, it could be you're being too harsh and critical on yourself.
Indeed, some people seem to be pretty forgiving or encouraging of others while being very harsh on themselves.
And, as most of you already know, people who literally despise themselves almost always relate to others in an unforgiving, disdainful, critical, and controlling manner.
Discussing it with Hashem led me to realize that I'd been turning a lot of anger inward on myself, symbolized by the nails turning against their own flesh.
Over the past years, I keep running into people who judge and compare unfavorably. Sometimes they're talking about others with no connection to me, sometimes it's a well-intentioned hint to me, and sometimes it's outright slap-in-my-face criticism.
For example, my 2.5-year-old was recently sick with Hand Foot & Mouth Disease (HFMD). (My own familiarity with this disease in name only, I discovered it's similar to chicken pox, but only on the face, hands, and feet.) It's called machalat hapeh v'hagefayim ("disease of the mouth and limbs") in Hebrew, not to be confused with machalat hapeh ("disease of the mouth" - herpangina?).
When an acquaintance remarked on not having seen us for a while and I explained why, she rushed to declare, "I know all about it! Ora's quadruplets ALL had machalat hapeh at the SAME time!"
(Ora's quads are now in their mid-20s and married.)
The exchange left me disgruntled. First of all, she hadn't even bothered to hear what I actually said (my son hadn't had machalat hapeh, he'd had HFMD). Secondly, she referred to an event that had occurred with quadruplets over 2 decades ago...to what purpose?
Yes, I know things could be worse. Yes, I'm grateful that I didn't have four down with any illness all at one time.
When my son developed HFMD, I'd not fully recovered from being very sick with an unrelated illness myself. Because HFMD is highly contagious we'd been cooped up for over a week, and I'd been wrapped up with caring for an illness for which I'd no prior experience. Finally, he'd only just started his first gan 2 weeks before his illness, which meant that we'd need to start the acclimation process all over again.
What happened to "Refuah shlaima" or "I'm glad he's feeling better" or "I'm sorry to hear you guys have been having a hard time"?
She's usually a warm and likable person, so it's easy to chalk up her inappropriate response to the kind of insensitivity we all commit sometimes.
Yet a talk with Hashem about her irrelevant comparison revealed that I kept comparing myself (often unfavorably) to others.
And this is wrong.
Inward Comparisons ONLY
However, Judaism only ever commands you to fulfill YOUR unique potential, and no one else's.
You only ever measure yourself against who you were an hour ago or a day ago.
With such different natures, talents, life situations, backgrounds, environments, flaws, and resources, one human being really can't be compared to another.
Comparing yourself to another person is not only useless, it's nonsensical if you really think about it.
The Stunning Greatness of a Regular Jew: Gitty
Why Faith is Not Enough
Different Courses for Different Horses
The Most Effective Way to Fix Your Flaws (Focus on your good points!)