Off the Pulpit

Inside and Outside

I judge myself from the inside. I know how I feel, how complex are my own motivations and ideas. My view of others is different. Especially when they do something I dislike, I often attribute a single motive, idea or personality trait to them.

Perhaps for this month of Elul we should reverse the process. Try seeing yourself from the outside — how do my actions affect others? How do they appear to them? At the same time, try to judge others from the inside: what could have moved them to do this, or why might they have done something I think is wrong — can I find good reasons for their action?

You can only see the world through your own eyes. But detachment — the attempt to move away from the center of ego toward the perspective of another — is a crucial moral exercise. Believing in the depth and complexity of other souls takes work. But then, we want them to see us that way, don’t we?