טראַכטן גוט וועט זיין גוט
This quote by the chassidic master Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (1789–1866) is catchy, but I always found I had some pushback to it.
Think good and it will be good? Isn’t that a little simplistic? A little unrealistic? Does it not deny the actual negative feelings and experiences a person has? What about feeling our feelings? Is there any room for that in this attitude?
But as I was writing in my journal this morning, venting about some frustrating occurrences from this past erev Shabbos, the thought crossed my mind that instead of just repeatedly going over those negative interactions, what if I chose to focus on the things that went right? Just for a day? How would that affect me?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that this quote, this way of thinking, is that bitachon, the absolute assurance and conviction that G‑d will make things good, actually becomes the mechanism that enables us to receive G‑d’s blessings. Positive thinking is not just a helpful psychological tool, but it actually makes positive results happen, it changes the nature of our reality.
I recently took a marriage course (with Rivke Gardner, I highly, highly recommend) that utilized a tool called “I spy,” which, like the children’s game, requires us to look and find something specific. So, in this adult version, it means that if there is something we feel is, you know, not really so present or not working so well in the relationship, look for the ways it actually does exist.
For instance, if your spouse is stingy with money and it’s a source of tension, you can play “I spy” and see the ways your spouse is actually generous in other areas.
It works with kids too. Sarah Chana Radcliffe often reminds us that if we want our children to change their behavior for the better, find them doing something right and praise them for it. Don’t criticize and correct and lecture. If they’re doing some behavior which you want them to stop, gently and supportively show them the right way, build on the positivity. That’s what creates the new neural pathways to better behavior.
Now, obviously, I do not always succeed at this, either in my marriage or with my children (oy), but the times that I have employed these tools, boy howdy, has it made a difference.
So today, I’m going to practice what I preach and try out this positive attitude.