This doesn’t mean that He expects a regular person to reach the level of Moshe Rabbeinu; it means that He expects a “regular” person to push himself a lot more than He seems to expect of other people.
Trudging through the Mire of Teshuvah
A couple of people confided that before they started talking to Hashem and doing a raw, introspective evaluation of themselves, they feel like in hindsight, they were well on their way to developing a full-blown personality disorder.
They have shame and even some confusion (“How could I have even thought that way? Where was my brain??!”) about their past behavior. What’s astonishing is how they were able to sift through all that narcissism and victim mentality to reach the truth (both the beautiful and the ugly parts) about themselves—and then to get down to serious work on transforming themselves into the kind of people they were meant to be all along.
Because personality disorders indicate a lot of false beliefs (which the person honestly thinks are true), and which also knocks that person's instincts off balance (causing them to jump to false conclusions about themselves and others), it means that they have more mire than usual to wade through and a much harder job ahead of them.
Interestingly, most people don’t ever try to do this. In fact, even a lot of emotionally healthy people don’t sit down and do a regular cheshbon hanefesh or turn to God in their own words.
(Note: A “regular” cheshbon hanefesh doesn’t have to mean “daily”—although that’s the halachic ideal; “regular” can also mean weekly.)
And we see that a lot of people with emotional problems don’t do real teshuvah at all; this resistance is an inherent part of their emotional problems and mental health issues in the first place.
So why do some people get to work and some don’t?
And why do many emotionally healthy people (who presumably have less work to do and hence less inner shame to face) skimp on real raw self-scrutiny while this handful of emotionally unhealthy personality disordered people engage in the necessary self-scrutiny, when the latter have so much more muck to rake through, and therefore much more emotional pain during the process?
(In addition, most emotionally unhealthy people have experienced traumatic events not of their making, which they also need to remember and deal with. So it’s not just their own mistakes and transgressions, but very painful experiences perpetrated against them by the transgressions and mistakes of others.)
I don’t know the answer. I guess these people have certain amount of siyata d’Shmaya, maybe zechut avot (ancestral merit) or at least one very good and significant deed that opens the gates of teshuvah to them and earns them an extra measure of Heavenly Help to get them to where they need to go.
It’s truly a Divine Act of loving-kindness because the better we behave here, the more reward we receive for eternity over There. So when people are given a chance to identify their misdeeds and faulty thinking, regret them and change them, they are actually doing their ownselves a huge favor.
Having said that, it’s still grueling work.
When the Playing Field isn't Level
For example, I think we’ve all met the following types of parents:
- Parent A possesses both the innate nature and the upbringing to be a good parent.
- Parent B lacks the innate nature associated with good parenting, but received a good upbringing and fairly decent modeling as to how to be a good parent.
- Parent C possesses the innate nature to be a good parent, but underwent an abusive upbringing or received poor modeling from own parents.
- Parent D lacks both the innate nature and upbringing or any kind of positive parental modeling.
(And certainly, there are also different gradations within each type with regard to how much innate nature one receives and how exemplary or abusive the upbringing and parental modeling was.)
Needless to say, Parent D is going to have to work a LOT harder to just reach the innate level of Parent B or C, while reaching the level that comes naturally to Parent A is going to seem nearly impossible to Parent D.
(And sometimes, Hashem throws Parent D a particularly difficult spouse and/or particularly challenging children into the mix.)
We see that things aren't dished out equally and that some people have a lot more strikes against them from the outset.
Again, it seems that Hashem simply has higher expectations of some people than He does others.
Looking at Yourself from Hashem's POV
Whatever effort you make? That’s what you get judged on.
If you clawed yourself up from Level Minus Five to Level Zero, then you’ve struggled and accomplished a lot more than a Level Seven who pushed himself up to Level Eight…even though the latter appears tremendously more accomplished than you do.
People can disparage a person on Level Zero. And the pinch is that people may be right when they state that “you’re only on Level Zero.”
But only Hashem knows where you’ve really come from and that your “Zero” is another person’s “Eight.”
And Hashem’s POV is all that matters.
May we all merit to complete our tikkun in this lifetime without suffering or humiliation.