Do you have people in your life who drive you crazy? Have you ever met someone who rubbed you the wrong way right from the start – and it never got any better? One of the greatest sages who ever lived, known as the Baal Shem Tov, taught that every aggravating trait or character flaw we see in someone else is merely a reflection back into our own soul. Two of my teachers overseas expounded on that concept and coined a phrase that I repeat so often it’s become a part of my ongoing self-talk: “the work is with me”. Easy to say and easy to remember…not so easy to digest and internalize.
As I go throughout my day, I find that multiple opportunities usually arise to use this catchy tool. Getting cut-off in traffic? The work is with me. Less than friendly customer service people? The work is with me. Slow talkers of any type? The work is with me. Ego maniacs…the work is with me. Annoying family members (never in my family!)…the work is with me. Incompetent professionals…the work is with me.
What am I seeing in them that I’m still holding onto? What is bothering me so badly about that person that I clearly need to let go of in myself? It’s interesting to note that the more second-nature this phrase has become, the more I’ve been able to honestly search for my own necessary refinements. Granted, I’ve still got a loooooong way to go, but I’ve found this to be a safe and sure-fire way to move beyond rapid rejection of others (which is nothing more than a deflection of reality and my own rough edges) and on to the much more powerful path of personal polishing.
It’s also worth noting that we CANNOT change other people. Never could and never will. So if we can’t change them, then why on earth does G-d allow us to see their faults? To judge them? Look down on them from our perch of perfection? Spread toxicity and make ourselves feel better by talking about them? That does nothing but pour buckets and buckets of poison onto our own heads. I know because I’ve learned this lesson the hard way…more than once. So, why do we get sucked into this drama?? Because it’s much, much easier than taking that good hard look in the mirror and accepting the task of working on ourselves. The work is with me.
Give it a try once or twice and see what might come up…pay attention to your knee-jerk responses and then watch what might bubble to the surface if you keep at it a bit longer. No judgement, no expectations…just curious observation. The work is with me.