GETTING THROUGH THE TOUGH TIMES

Akiva Lane, akivalane@gmail.com                                 www.eflip.com home page
Copyright Akiva Lane 2011, All Rights Reserved

CHAPTER 1 - Finding the Resources to Persevere During Tough Times
Tough Times Can Happen Any Time
Tough times happen to all of us.  They can happen gradually or suddenly in any area of our lives, such as with money, family, health, work, relationships – unfortunately there are so many possible areas where tough times can happen. Things may be going relatively smoothly, when POW, so much of our life seems to be turned upside down.  We find that our days are like a maze, as we try to get through the decisions and minefields that confront us. When we wake up in the morning, our mind is flooded with the painful and difficult challenges that we have to deal with.

Tough Times Can’t Be Ignored
Tough times can happen without any warning, out of the blue.  Or they can unfold gradually, with full warning as they develop.  They can be the result of our own mistakes and shortcomings, or they can happen totally outside the realm of our control.  One thing that all tough times have in common is that they are tough.  They demand our attention and resources to deal with them. No matter how much we may want them to disappear, they are front and center in our lives, and we can’t avoid them.
 
We Must Persevere
During the tough times, it is often tempting to give up and throw in the towel.  The obstacles can seem so difficult and immense, that it’s often hard to find within ourselves the strength to keep on going and persevere. Despair, however, can be a self-perpetuating downward spiral, sapping our strength that we need to get through each day. But giving up won't make the tough times go away – rather, giving up usually makes things more difficult and complicated.

We Yearn for Purpose and Hope
We know that it’s better to find within ourselves the strength and resources to rise to our challenges, and to persevere through the battle to keep our head above water. We know that we will be strengthened by a sense of meaning and purpose and hope.  But these life rafts are often not easy to find.  As the storm rages outside and within us, as the tough times persist day after day, we yearn for the positive attitude that we sense will give us the resolve to keep on going.

At The Crossroads Between Hope and Despair
Every day, every moment, we seem poised at a crossroads – whether to summon our strength to hold on tight and keep on going, or to give up hope. Can we keep the flickering flame alive, believing that the dawn will rise, bringing with it a warm sun and brighter day?  Can we keep our spirit up as we look for solutions? Do we have what it takes to deal with - and overcome - the tough times?

Presenting An Idea That Provides Meaning
We will present a way of looking at tough times that can vastly increase our chances of success as we confront our challenges.  This perspective can give us strength and a sense of purpose to help us find the resources we need to overcome the difficulties we face. This sense of meaning can make us stronger and more resilient as we climb the mountain and battle the storm of the tough times.
 
CHAPTER 2 - A Helpful Idea
An Idea From The Sages
We will describe an idea that was developed by Jewish sages over the millennia.  In particular, it is similar to what Rabbi Chaim Luzzato (1707-1746) writes in his book Derech Hashem. We will show how this idea can be extremely useful to help us get through our tough times.

The Perfect And Infinite Creator
The idea begins with the existence of the Creator who is perfect, infinite, all-knowing, and all good.  Though we use these adjectives to describe the Creator, really the Creator is beyond our ability to comprehend. Trying to understand the Creator is like an ant trying to understand quantum physics.  We are told by the sages that these are the attributes of the Creator, so we will begin with this assumption.

In The Beginning There Were The Heavens and the Earth
In the beginning the Creator made time.  (Just to give an inkling of how limited our comprehension is, it is almost impossible for us to visualize time ‘beginning’.  We’re tempted to ask what happened ‘before’ that. But today scientists agrees that at some point time ‘began’). When time began, the Creator made the “Heavens and the Earth”.  The Heavens refers to the spiritual world, while the Earth refers to the physical world. The physical world came into being with what science calls a “big bang” in which the universe with its billions of galaxies exploded from a single point, hurtling away from each other at almost the speed of light.

The Heavens Refers To A Spiritual World
The Heavens, on the other hand, refers to a spiritual world inhabited by spiritual beings.  One type of spiritual being is static.  This type of spiritual being remains just the way it was created, and cannot change.  The Hebrew word for this spiritual being is an ‘omed’,literally that it ‘stands’, meaning that it cannot change.

The Spiritual Being With Free Will
The Creator also made a more sophisticated spiritual being that can change.  This spiritual being has free-will to make choices.  Because it has free-will, in a sense it has an attribute that is similar to the Creator Himself who has ultimate free-will.   This spiritual being can make choices, grow, and perfect itself.  As this spiritual being grows and perfects itself, it can reach a far higher level than the kind of spiritual being that is merely static.

The Soul Enters The Body
The Creator made a place where these special spiritual beings can have the opportunity to change and grow. He made the Earth, with its air, water, vegetation, and animals. Then He created people.  Into each person the Creator places one of these sophisticated spiritual beings with free-will.  We refer to this spiritual being as our ‘soul’.  The sages say that the soul enters the body of a person 40 days after conception.  

Challenges Are A Wonderful Gift To Help Us Grow
From the time that we are born, we begin a tremendous journey in which we can exercise our free-will to grow and change.  This is a wonderful gift that we are given. Throughout our lives, we are confronted by challenges and tests that are opportunities for growth. While we are in our physical body, there is no limit to how much we can perfect our soul. 
 
Vignette A –Bob Jones
Tough Time
Bob Jones was in shock when he heard that the auto parts plant, where he had been a production manager for over 20 years, was closing. It was a week before Thanksgiving last year when he drove home in the rain in disbelief, and broke the news to Susan his wife and Freddy their 14 year old son. Susan had a little income as a secretary in Dr. Benson’s office, and Freddy started delivering newspapers after school. But now the unemployment insurance had run out, their debts were up to the sky, the credit cards were maxed out, and their house was about to go into foreclosure. Bob had applied for so many jobs that year and come up empty handed, that he had stopped looking. He felt like his financial roof was caving in on him, and he didn’t know how he was going to pay this month’s bills.

Getting Through
One evening at dinner with Sarah and Freddy, Bob realized that the first step out of the financial mess was to grab a hold of himself and dispel the mood of depression and panic that hung over him. During that discussion, they came up with a plan. They would sell their house and rent a smaller one, and that would let them to pay off their bills. Ever since he was a teenager, Bob’s hobby was fixing cars. He and Freddy put up posters in the neighborhood telling people about his services. The work started coming in, but it was slow going.  On weekends and after school, he trained Freddy, and he liked working with his son. As business increased, he applied for a loan to buy a small workplace. His family wasn't out of the red, but they were pulling together to try to improve things.

CHAPTER 3 - The Challenges and Tests
Our Life Is An Exciting Journey To Perfect Our Soul
The physical world on Earth that we inhabit as human beings is an arena that enables us to exercise our free will. Each of us has a very personal and individual journey that can be elevating and meaningful. To perfect our soul can be an exciting and exhilarating endeavor.

Challenges Are The Purpose Of Life
When we are born, our tests begin.  Throughout our lives, we are confronted by challenges. These tests are not meant to bring us down or make us fail.  On the contrary, they are the very purpose of life – to give us opportunities to grow.  We need to reach inside ourselves and use our internal resources to confront the challenges that are meant to stretch us.  

Finding The Resources To Meet Our Tailor-Made Tests
The Creator provides us with tests that are tailor-made for us.  Our tests match exactly what we need to work on. In fact, we can see whatwe need to work on by examining the nature of our tests.  We should be encouraged by the knowledge that the Creator is giving us these tests because He knows that we have the abiilty to succeed and make the right choices. It is our task to find the resources we need, and try to do our best to make the right decisions.

Tough Times Can Lead To The Greatest Growth
By definition it’s not easy. Tough times are usually challenging and difficult. But the toughest times can be the greatest periods of growth.  When we are pressed, we can respond by looking deep within ourselves, to find abilities that we never knew we had.  This enables us to grow more than if we didn't have tests.  A higher soul wants to use this life to progress, and the Creator accommodates it by giving it more and harder tests.

We Can Succeed In All Our Tests
This does not guarantee that we will do well on all our tests.  To be a test, there must be a chance of failure as well as success. It is only because there is a possibility of failure that we get credit when we do well on our tests.  The tests are supposed to be unpredictable, challenging, and difficult.  But there is no test that is so difficult that we can’t pass it, because by definition each test is an opportunity for our soul to improve.  No test, no matter how difficult it seems, is beyond our ability to pass it.

The Creator Wants Us To Succeed
All tests have solutions, and it is up to us to be resourceful and think creatively to find the solutions. The Creator wants us to succeed, not fail.  Having a positive attitude helps us respond optimally to our tests. It is ironic, but having difficult tests may be an indication that we have a uplifted soul, ready to scale heights not achievable otherwise.

The Creator Provides Tests As An Opportunity
We should be nimble and prepared for every test as it comes our way –like a shortstop in a baseball game, ready for any ball that is hit.  To be nervous or worried about the tests is counter-productive.  We should remember that the Creator is providing our tests as an opportunity for us to grow. When we are confronted by difficult situations, and we rise to the occasion and find resources within ourselves, this is a tremendous gift and opportunity that the Creator has given us.  As we struggle and face our challenges, the Creator must stay in the background so that our tests are real  

Vignette B –Mary Harper
Tough Time
Mary couldn’t concentrate on the figures on her computer screen. She looked at her wedding photo on her work desk, and remembered her beautiful wedding to Alan 15 years ago. But early in the marriage it seemed that they didn’t have much to talk about, and they had drifted apart. She couldn’t remember the last she had felt attracted to Alan, and they had no children. Alan was pleasant enough, and he busied himself with sports on the weekend, while she cleaned the house or went shopping alone or with friends. Her friend Judy had just gotten divorced, and said she was happier. Mary didn’t know if she should talk with Alan about this subject or anything else. She felt very alone, and didn’t know what to do.

Getting Through
While looking at her wedding picture one day, Mary remembered Alan’s good qualities that had first drawn her to him, and she resolved to try to improve their marriage. She called up a friend, and got the recommendation of a marriage counselor. Alan was glad to go, and with the counselor they started talking things out. Alan opened up about what he liked and didn’t like, and Mary did the same. They went out to dinner twice a week, and started communicating. When Mary became pregnant, that brought out a warmth and closeness that Mary had only dreamt about. Mary now felt more active in her life and marriage, and she was committed to focusing on their relationship and talking with Alan about what was on their minds.

CHAPTER 4 - Our Relationship to The Creator
The Creator Must Let Us Take The Tests
When we are going through difficult times we ask: Why is the Creator putting me through this, and why isn’t He helping me more?  We should remember that the Creator sees and knows everything we do.  He is right by our side, and is rooting for us and wants us to do as well as we can on each test.  But He can’t step in and interfere, and He can’t take the tests for us. That would interfere with our free will, and negate the purpose of our tests, which is to give our soul the opportunity to grow.  A teacher who gives out the answers to a test isn’t testing the students in the class – they will all get 100, but that won’t show anything about their knowledge and abilities.

The Tests Are A Gift For Us To Uplift Our Soul
Though the tests are often quite difficult and painful, we should keep in mind that they are gifts.  The Creator gives us these challenges as opportunities for our soul to improve. The Creator knows all about us, and provides us with tailor-made tests all the time, so we can stretch who we are, and become all that we can become.  But He can’t do the tests for us, because that would defeat the purpose of the tests.  

The Creator Must Remain Hidden
Life may not appear the way we’re describing it, but that’s intentional.  The word Olamin Hebrew has a double meaning –it means world, and it also means hidden.  The more hidden the tests are, the more they are tests. The Creator must remain hidden.   If the Creator would be more manifest and visible, then we would feel constrained to be good.  It is because the Creator hides from us that we really have the choice between right and wrong, and this makes the tests effective. The Creator wants our tests to be real, so He stays off-stage, out of view.

The Creator Gives Us Feedback So We Can Learn
The Creator sometimes acts as our teacher in a way that may not feel so pleasant. If we make bad choices, the Creator may give us feedback in a form that may look like punishment.  He wants to let us know the negative consequences of our actions and assumptions, so that we can learn and do better in the future.  If a person puts his hand in a flame, the pain that he feels discourages him to do it again. We benefit by learning from feedback about our shortcomings and mistakes.

We Must Learn What Is Right And Wrong
So many of our tests involve deciding what is the right and wrong thing to do. The Creator has set the standards of what is right and wrong.  One of our persistent challenges in life is to comprehend what these standards are, and how to apply them to our own circumstances. One part of every test is to figure out the difference between right and wrong.

Feeling Gratitude To The Creator
We should be grateful to the Creator.  He created the universe and gives us life.  Even in the midst of a difficult test, it’s appropriate that we are grateful for the bountiful gifts that the Creator bestows on us.  The world is filled with so many miracles that we benefit from. Our gratitude strengthens our relationship with the Creator, and strengthens us during our tests. Just to mention a few of the countless miracles: Our bodies have 100,000 miles of blood vessels to feed each of our 50 trillion cells, and there are 20 million red blood cells created every second to bring oxygen to those cells.  

Praying To The Creator For Compassion
It is good for us to pray and ask the Creator for compassion.  Prayer involves trying to feel the presence of the Creator, and can strengthen the bond that we feel to Him. Prayer can be a merit for us, and we hope that the Creator responds to us with compassion. A parent teaching a child to walk knows that the child may fall at times. If the child stumbles and cries out to be caught, the parent often reaches out to help.

The Creator Sees the Whole Picture
We don’t know what each tough time means. We see small pieces of the puzzle, but not how they fit together. Often what appears bad may be good, and vice versa.  Only the Creator sees the whole picture. Losing a job may be just the impetus we need to start a successful business. We may feel bad about missing a bus that is later in an accident. The Creator has a broad perspective and presents us with opportunities and feedback. We have to focus on becoming all that we can be, and on learning and growing from each experience.
 
Vignette C– Jane Zeller
Tough Time
All of Jane Zeller’s friends saw her as one of the most popular girls in Granada Hills High School’s 10th grade. Her marks would be better if she wasn’t up half the night on Facebook. But it was the Saturday parties that confused her most. A lot of her friends were popping pills and her best friend Mandy just had an abortion. Jane’s parents were busy and successful lawyers, and told her they were confident in her judgment. She was dreading each Saturday night, not knowing who would pressure her to do what, and she was confused about how she was going to respond.

Getting Through
One Saturday when Jane was dressing for that night's party, she thought about the pill she took during last week's party that made her nauseas and dizzy all night. Jane looked in the mirror and said to herself, “Hold on, this is my life. Why should I let myself be pushed by my friends, and do things that are stupid just because they're doing it?”She decided to stop going to the parties.  It wasn't easy when she got the cold shoulder from some friends as a result. Jane started to gravitate toward new friends who were more serious about their studies. She felt less popular, and was alone more, but she felt sure this was the direction she wanted to go in. 

CHAPTER 5 - The Two Voices Within Us
The Creator Put A Positive And Negative Voice In Us
Our choices during our tests affect our soul.  In order to make our tests challenging and to amplify our free will, the Creator puts inside us two voices – a positive voice and a negative voice.  The positive voice encourages us to make choices that help us grow in a positive direction.  The negative voice tries to convince us to make the wrong decisions that will bring our soul down.  

The Two Voices Pull Us In Opposite Directions
The two voices make our conflicts come alive.  The voices pull us in opposite directions, and our will is undiscovered and latent until we make our decisions.  We use our free will to choose which way to go.  The positive voice encourages us to do what is right. The negative voice tries to fool, bamboozle, and impede us by pulling the wool over our eyes.

We Must Choose Which Voice To Listen To
The positive voice emphasizes the importance of being good, doing what’s right, the effect on our soul, and long term consequences. The negative voice tries to draw us towards selfishness, hedonism, stealing, immorality, and immediate pleasure without consideration for the effects of our actions.  We consider both sides, and we exercise our free will and decide what to do.  

Keeping Calm As We Decide Between The Voices
The challenges we face and the consequences of bad decisions make up many of the tough times that we go through. It is important for us to be vigilant and prepared for the tricks and shenanigans of the negative voice lurking in the shadows, trying to trip us up.  When we hear the positive and negative voices debating, we should clarify which voice is which, and keep an even keel and calmness of mind as we try to decide wisely and act strategically.

Stopping A Downward Spiral
Being deceived by the negative voice can result in a self-reinforcing downward spiral.  If a person steals or is guilty of infidelity, the resulting thrill can awaken a desire for repeat offenses.  A drug addict needs stronger drugs to feel the same kick. A person caught up in a downward spiral can increasingly throw caution to the wind, and give up hope of catching his fall.   But we always have free will, and we must listen to our positive voice and try to wake ourselves up to see the negative consequences of our decisions.  Members of Alcoholics Anonymous can attest to the rewards of stopping a fall and climbing back up.

Being On Guard During An Upward Spiral
Upward spirals can also be self-reinforcing.  Doing good has benefits that feel good and can increase our commitment to move higher.  But as we rise, our negative voice becomes more intent on tripping us up, and we become more susceptible to the pitfall of arrogance. At greater heights we may mistakenly assume that we need less caution.   If we are enjoying an upward spiral, we must be on guard for ways that the negative voice may try to short-circuit our success. We must be attentive to the helpful advice of the positive voice, and try to see through the haze that the negative voice uses to cloud our vision.

The Voices And The World Pull Us In Both Directions With Equal Force
The Creator makes our positive and negative voices of equal strength in order to maximize our free will. The sages say that the Creator designed the world so that if something has the power to do good, it also has an equal and opposite power to do bad.  For example, a steak knife cuts meat better than a butter knife, but it can also be more lethal.  The Internet provides instant access to both inspiring and decadent content. Gasoline powers a car, but can also explode. The world outside and our voices inside are designed to pull us with equal force in positive and negative directions, leading to moments of truth when we make our decisions.

Vignette D– Steve Goodman
Tough Time
At his 50th birthday party, Steve Goodman felt he had a lot to be thankful for: his lovely wife Betty, his two married daughters, and his four grandchildren. He enjoyed his work as an accountant. But it was at the birthday party that he first felt the gnawing pain in his stomach, and the diagnostic tests showed that he had a moderately advanced case of stomach cancer. Within two weeks, Dr. Jacobs operated and took out half the stomach, and said he thought he had caught it all, and the malignancy probably hadn’t spread. But suddenly Steve felt a dark cloud over his head, and he wondered how much more time he had to enjoy his family, and how much longer his young grandchildren would have to know him.

Getting Through
For the first few months after the operation, Steve was preoccupied with morbid thoughts of dying soon. When he saw a beautiful view or ate something delicious, it was quickly followed by the thought, “How much longer do I have for this?” But one morning it dawned on him how foolish he was. These thoughts were casting a pall on his life, and he knew that he had to snap out of this ‘mood’ and start using the time that he did have. He saw things with a new clarity,and he tried to savor each moment. Betty and the rest of the family appreciated the change. Steve didn't know if he had days or decades left, but he knew that every experience was valuable, and he wanted to feel things deeply and fully.
 
CHAPTER 6 - Watching Out For The Negative Voice During Strong Emotion
Being Vigilant During Strong Emotion
When we are in the throes of strong emotion, we are more vulnerable to being led astray by the negative voice.  Emotions such as arrogance, desire, despair, anger and fear can cloud our judgment, leading us to make decisions that are self-destructive.  When the heat of emotion reaches a crescendo, we must be vigilant not to be caught off-guard by the suggestions of the negative voice that is the adversary within us. We should reflect, exercise caution, and maintain perspective before we act, being patient until the turbulence of strong emotion passes by. Here are some strong emotions, and what to watch out for.

Arrogance - When we feel successful and strong, we are more vulnerable to the pitfall of arrogance, and can be less cautious and less heedful of advice.  The negative voice says, “How can you make a mistake?  You're so successful that you can ignore the warning signals” The hubris of Napoleon led him to invade Russia, causing him to lose almost his entire 700,000 man army. The builders of the Titanic felt the ship was invulnerable, so they didn’t provide enough lifeboats. As the Book of Proverbs says, “Pride comes before disaster, and arrogance before a fall”.

Desire - Attraction and desire can arise within us like a windstorm.  It’s hard to think clearly when our mind and body is focused on the object of our desire.  The negative voice says, “You must have that right now, no matter what the consequences.”We can pay dearly for bad decisions at such times.  While the tempest is blowing, we should try to sit tight until the feeling passes. We should be strategic, and not impulsive, and wait until the storm is over.  We should remember that nothing feels more permanent than an emotion, and nothing is more temporary.

Despair- During tough times we can’t let ourselves slide into despair and lose hope that things can improve. At these times the negative voice says, “You may as well stop trying, because things can’t get better”.  Letting the shreds of hope blow away can lead to desperation and self-destructive decisions. We must maintain hope and rouse ourselves to do our best in the midst of our challenges, and that helps us have the resolve and energy to improve things. We have to remove the arms of depression that want to envelop us, climb out of the quagmire of passivity, and as Hamlet says, ‘take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them”.

Anger- When someone hurts us, it is natural to ‘see red’ as rage rises in us. While it is essential for us to protect and defend ourselves, we should mediate the urge to hurt with level-headed logic, and factor in the consequences of our actions.  The negative voice says,“He can’t get away with that, I'll teach him not to do that again!"  When we are destabilized by a rush of anger, we can act in ways that we may later regret. Close relationships can be destroyed in moments of rage.  We must keep a level head and maintain perspective until the extreme heat of rage dissipates.   Then we can use judgment to achieve legitimate defense through strategic action and words.  

Fear - It is good to plan for negative possibities, and less than optimum outcomes. But when images of impending doom and worst case scenarios fill our mind, fear can immobilize us like a deer frozen by headlights.  We may flee in panic when a situation requires reasoned and effective action. The negative voice says, “The worst is going to happen”. Worry and fear usually saps our energy without being productive, and most things that we fear never materialize. We should have courage and think clearly, and remind ourselves that the Creator runs the world.
 
Vignette E– Mike Cooper
Tough Time
As a partner in his New York law firm, Mike Cooper was riding high, earning the salary that he had expected after graduating from Yale law school years ago. But he wanted his life to go even faster and higher. After usually finishing work after 8PM, he often downed a drink and drove home fast to his large home in Stanford Connecticut, and his wife Marla who he felt mildly dissatisfied with. It was during one of these drives that he tried to swerve around a tire in the road and smashed his car. He survived the 12 hour operation, but the doctor said it could take years of physical therapy to be able to walk again.

Getting Through
When Mike felt the pain in his legs and back, or struggled between his bed and wheelchair, he felt angry. How did that tire get in the road, why was this happening to him? He was in no mood to be an invalid. Marla was a comforting presence, coming to the hospital every day, and now at home wheeling him around and helping him with his physical therapy. At first it didn’t make any sense to him when she said, “Mike, isn’t there a lot you can do with your time?” But slowly the idea started to sink in. He did some work from home, read books he had always wanted to read, and listened to his favorite classical music. He started appreciating Marla’s firmly loyal nature. For the first time in his life, he found himself slowing down, and not totally disliking it.

CHAPTER 7 - Our Relationship With Others
It’s Good To Have A Positive Support System Of Other People
We spend our lives with other people, such as family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.  As we go through our challenges, it is important to have a support system of people that can encourage us to see clearly and assist us in making good choices.  It is helpful to be part of a community and sub-culture where the members share positive common values, remind each other of the importance of developing our soul, and help each other avoid the mirrors and double-talk of the negative voice.

Be Careful With People Who Influence Us Negatively
Since we are influenced by others, we should be careful when we are with people who are more easily fooled and seduced by their negative voice.  We should be cautious if they suggest that we join them in activities that don’t reflect the best judgment, or don't make an optimum use of time.  While it is good to have compassion for them and help them see more clearly, we must make sure we sidestep negative activities they may participate in.  We have to safeguard our soul from people who may have a negative influence on it.

We Are Affected By What Happens To The Groups That We Belong To
Groups are given tests, as well as individuals.  Countries and sub-cultures are rewarded or given negative feedback by the Creator as a result of their collective actions.  We should pay attention to the groups that we are members of, geographically, culturally, and religiously.  We bear a responsibility to try to raise the level of our group, and are affected by what happens to the group.  The sweep of history sees groups rise and fall, and our lives are tied to the groups that we belong to.

Have Compassion For The Tests Of Others
Other people have tests also.  We all have different challenges, and everyone has different things to perfect.  Don’t pre-judge people by the way they look externally, assuming that you know all about them by how they appear.  Everyone is a veritable universe, a phantasmagoria of experiences, abilities, and limitations.  Take time to listen to others, and be sensitive to the tests that they are going through.  Try to recognize and appreciate people’s good qualities, and try to forgive what they haven’t yet perfected.  This is especially important in marriage, and with raising children. But it’s also applies to everyone we meet.

We Get A Tremendous Amount When We Give
We may sometimes feel a conflict between doing something for others, or doing something for ourselves.   For example, do we take the time to help others, and do we give to those who are needy?   It may be that when we give to others, we are really giving a tremendous gift to ourselves because of the good affect it has on our soul.  An enlightened person knows that it is in his self-interest to be generous.  A giving person receives much more than a stingy person.

Our Closest Relationships Are Meaningful and Require Dedication
Our central relationships, such as with our spouse, children, siblings, parents, and closest friends play a crucial role in our lives, and require our utmost dedication. We know at a deep level that the journeys of our souls are intermingled and intertwined.   We are bound together emotionally, financially, spiritually, and physically. The love that we feel towards each other is real, and reflects the love that we share with the Creator.  These deep and meaningful bonds need commitment, communication, and trust as we share our joys and pain together.

Vignette F – Barbara Wilks
Tough Time
Barbara Wilks enjoyed her work as a waitress in the Little Rock diner. The customers had become her friends, almost like a family, and she enjoyed talking to them about their daily ups and downs. But one evening when she looked in the bathroom mirror at home during a TV commercial break, she thought her face looked lined and tired. Here she was 35 and still single, alone in her apartment. She had to hold back the tears as she felt the pain of isolation, wondering if she would ever get married and have children. What, she asked herself, had happened to her life? Where had it gone?

Getting Through
Barbara knew that her life would improve only if she could overcome the shyness that had plagued her all her life. She was social as a waitress, but one-on-one she always felt like a wall flower. She started seeing a social worker, and after about a year things started to thaw. When Mayor Broderick mentioned in the diner that he was looking for volunteers for his re-election campaign, Barbara volunteered. She was busy every evening with people in the campaign. While handing out flyers one evening, she started talking with Brad Willers, a widower with three children. He asked her for dinner, and they started dating. With great effort, she was trying to overcome her shyness like a butterfly sheds its old skin.

CHAPTER 8 - Our Relationship with Ourselves
Have A Positive Attitude
A positive and hopeful attitude helps us perform better when we are confronted by our challenges. When we are energetic and resourceful, we’re more likely to do well during our tests.  Negativity can bring us down, and being worried distracts us and saps our energy.  We should try to be hopeful, prepared, and aware.  Being positive gives us strength and energy.

Be Vigilant And Maintain A Center Of Gravity And An Even Keel
We should be strategic and maintain perspective, and avoid being impulsive and impatient.  We have to watch out for the bad advice of the negative voice, especially during strong emotions. We shouldn’t ask for tests - it is better to leave that scheduling to the Creator who knows what tests we need and when. Humility helps protect us from the pitfall of arrogance. We should be watchful, nimble, calm, and vigilant, because challenges can come at any time, often at ‘crescendo’ moments.  As Jesse Owens said,“A lifetime of preparation for just ten seconds”.  

Sometimes Tests Are Meant To Teach Us That Our Strengths Can Be Liabilities
Our strengths that we are so proud of can sometimes lead us astray, and we should be on the lookout for tests that try to teach us this.  If we are proud of being disciplined and efficient, we may be tested to slow down to listen to our spouse and children. A trusting person must be careful to protect himself.  A religious person should watch out not to be self-righteous. Both flexibility and inflexibility have their downsides. Extremes often need to be tempered with their opposite, and the best of traits have within themselves the seeds of being abused.

Keep In Mind That The Growth Of Our Soul Is Central
We should keep in mind that life, with its challenges, is a tremendous gift from the Creator to enable us to improve our soul.  Especially when times are difficult, we should remember that our journey can be an exciting, elevating, and meaningful opportunity.  Rather than dwelling on how hard our tests are, it’s better to focus on how much we can benefit from them.  In the time that we have on Earth, we should try to do as well as we can to uplift our soul.

We Need Courage, Fortitude, and Belief
In the midst of tough times, it’s easy to forget that the Creator is by our side, lovingly providing our tests to help us grow.  Remembering this helps us have the vitality, courage, and fortitude to go the distance during arduous times.  If we watch for the hand of the Creator, we can see it in countless ways.  But we should be sensitive to the fact that He must remain hidden, so these indications must be subtle.  We should look deeply into our tests to try to find the lessons that they are meant to teach us. As we improve ourselves and our judgment, we should try to align ourselves with the will of the Creator.

We Should Have A Sense Of Joy
The world and life are gifts from the Creator, miracles that give us so much to appreciate and enjoy. As we work on our soul, we should be mindful of all the beauty and miracles to be grateful for. People also give us so much, and when we see how much we are the recipient of people’s effort and love, we are filled with gratitude towards them. When we feel this appreciation to the Creator and other people, it naturally infuses our lives with a sense of joy that helps us get through the tough times.