One should not be embarrassed when confronted by scoffers. Learn this and you’ll become one powerful person. To be different, not to fit the norm, is a great fear that holds us back so often. That’s why you should practice being different.
Here is a quote I’d like to share with you, and I’d like to see if you can guess where it’s from. The quote is: One should not be embarrassed by those who scoff at them.
Where is this from? A simple quote. This quote, where it is located actually adds major significance to it. And that combination of this quote and where it is written is what I’d like to focus on today.
This quote is in the very first law in the vast broad Code of Jewish Law. So if you open up a Code of Jewish Law ‑‑ in my office I have a full set of the Code of Jewish Law, which is many many volumes ‑‑ and in the very first law it includes this point. And this point is not a law. It’s actually making a psychological point. One should not be embarrassed by those who scoff at them.
Why is this the very first law of the Code of Jewish Law? For a very simple reason. One cannot be dedicated and committed to any types of rules or, we’ll say, values if they are going to be more concerned about what the people around them are thinking about them. So if I’m going to be embarrassed to live up to a certain standard or up to a certain value system because you are going to laugh at me and say, oh, why are you doing that, that is such a foolish thing to do, or modern people don’t do this, or intelligent people don’t do this, thinking people don’t do this, if I’m going to be intimidated by any of those comments, then there’s no point in continuing to read the Code of Jewish Law, other than for academics, which is not why it was written. It was written for a purpose, to direct us in our action. And this is very very powerful. Because a prerequisite to living a life that’s based on a value system and truly being dedicated to it is by being willing to step out of the norm. Because the norm will always laugh at anything that is not within the norm.
The reason why people are stuck within the norm are because they’re terrified of stepping outside, out of the bounds of the norm. Only those who are determined to live based on what they truly believe will step out of what everyone else is doing. And that actually requires an enormous amount of courage. I would hope that we all know from within ourselves how difficult it is to act differently than what is perceived as the norm. And that is the reason why this is the very beginning of the Code of Jewish Law.
As intellectual of beings as we are, we human beings, the fact of the matter is that we pursue comfort over truth. We pursue convenience over values. And unless we fight against our comfort, unless we fight against our convenience, we will not be able to be committed to the truths that we know and the values that we believe in.
Think of it as gravity. Gravity is a force that just pushes everything down. And unless you continuously push against it, it will just push you back into the norm. Think of a, if you ever rode a spin bike, as I’ve begun doing recently, and you listen to an instructor who is guiding you. They often say, feel the road under you. Now, the funny thing is that there is no road under you because you’re on a spin bike, so it’s just spinning in one place. But what they mean when they say feel the road under you is that as you increase the resistance, so it becomes a little bit more difficult to pedal, that resistance is what they mean by feeling the road. It’s like sort of when you start riding, even on a flat road, you feel some form of resistance and you have to push against that resistance. The resistance we all feel is the norm. That is an enormous resistance. And we have to learn to take it on with courage and go against it, almost as if it’s a mission in and of itself. Because that can empower us to step into what we believe is right even though all of our friends or many of our friends or many of our society are going to look at it and they’re going to laugh at it.
Interestingly, recently, in order to increase my income to support my family, I got involved in a business to create some residual income. And this is not a traditional form of a business. And so when I mention it to people, very, very often the very common response to it is, why are you doing this? Why are you doing this? Why did you get involved in this? Do you know what this really is? In the beginning, actually, I was very concerned and I had a lot of doubts about why I started this and I was second‑guessing myself. And I think that was a good thing because, you know, you never fully know until you experience this fully. But here I am about six months later involved in this and it’s fantastic. It’s, you know, I’m very happy I got involved in this because it’s producing the very purpose I got involved in it for. However, what’s really most interesting is that it is offering me something which is far greater than the residual income, which I’m really valuing more than anything else, and that is that I’m continually facing resistance from other people and I’m forging forward despite the comments. That to me is so valuable. Because I am exercising the muscle of not being intimidated by those who are looking at me and saying, you shouldn’t be doing this, why would you ever do something like this; looking at me as if, you know, I’m weird or strange because I’m involved in this. That itself, just to be able to continue to do this in the face of someone telling me those comments, because I know myself and my heart, because I already have experience that this is valuable, that means so much to me.
The biggest benefit that I’m getting is learning to ride above the perceptions of others. Even being a Chabad Rabbi comes with so many stigmas about what people believe I believe. And they just know it before even sharing a word with me. And even if they challenge me and I explain to them otherwise, they can’t even hear it. It just is what they know it to be. And the ability to stand in my shoes despite that is very important because that’s the only way we can be true to ourselves. It is far more convenient to believe we know than to actually learn differently. And when we begin to push against that resistance to learning differently, when we are committed to pushing against the norm and seeking what our gut tells us is right, what we learn to be true, what our value system is, that is what takes us above the norm.
There is a small percentage of people who are willing to do this. And that’s why the norm is called the norm because it’s made up of the majority of people. We need to know that we need to be above or outside, beyond the norm. And this is the ultimate form of beginning within versus beginning without. Beginning without is living what is acceptable to everyone else and beginning within is living what my inner self, what my soul demands of me.
So next time you have an opportunity to do something which the masses do not approve of but you know is the right thing to do, do it because it’s the right thing to do but do it as well as a challenge to being able to step out of the norm. Because the more we practice that the more we strengthen the muscle of being able to dedicate ourselves to the values that we believe in.