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How to stop punishing ourselves?
Jun 21, 2001

Rabbi:

It is very easy to get into the trap of criticizing our own selves and feeling we made a fool of ourselves by getting HIV!

Its almost like having ourselves in eternal punishment for all the wrong deeds that we did.

How can one stop that? Particularly when one does not see oneself qualifying even an iota for God's forgiveness- when one cannot make out any case for oneself.

How can we get out of such negativity?

Thanks and Regards

Response from Rabbi Sacks-Rosen

Thank you for writing.

You sound as if you are very hard on yourself. I believe that God is kinder, gentler, more understanding, more patient, more forbearing and more forgiving than you are able to sense or take in right now. The Bible states that God is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abouding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love for the thousandth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7) I have no reason to doubt this.

After all, if you reread the story of creation at the beginning of the book of Genesis (the first book of the Bible), you will note that human beings were created as the pinnacle of God's plan for creation. The book of Psalms puts it, "You have made humans just a little less than celestial." (Psalm 8:5. Some translate more literally but with the same effect, "You have made humans just a little lower than the angels."

Every person, then, is extremely important to God. As Martin Buber taught: Every person born into the world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique. It is thus your duty to know and to consider that you are unique in your particular character and that there has never been someone like you in the world, for if there were someone like you, God would not have needed to create you. Every single person is a new thing in the world, called upon to fulfill his or her particularity.

God created You, because God needed you and knew that we and the world need you. You are unique; you are special.

If you just recently found out that you have HIV, you may well be in shock. If you have had this knowledge for some time, you may well be feeling frustration or a down time.

Try to keep in mind, however, that you still have much to contribute, much to achieve, much to give, much to experience. God and we need you--all of you, your best you.

Perhaps you might need or wish to seek out some help and encouragement, perhaps from a spiritual mentor or therapist. If you do not have one perhaps you may wish to consult someone from your own faith origin. Or, you might call a local AIDS/HIV hotline and ask them for a local referral.

Meanwhile, perhaps each morning upon arising and each evening before falling asleep, you might recite, "You formed my inner being. Therefore, I praise You, for I am awesomely and wondrously formed. Deep down I know this....Look at me, O God and know my heart. See if I have any grievous way. Then redirect my path and lead me in the way that is everlasting." (Psalm 139:13-14; 23-24) (In some communities, this entire Psalm is indeed recited daily.)

I hope you will come to not only be easier on yourself, but to revel in the glory of being created in God's very own Image. Yes, you contain God's very essence within You. Rejoice.

May your journey bring you the blessings you not only need, but the blessings you truly deserve. God bless you.



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