The Price of Relationships
They have been married for so long that they don’t remember why they are fighting. They simply know that they are in an argument. There is no single specific issue. They fight. They stopped listening to each other many years ago. The only thing they do hear is criticism. There is no “reason” for them to argue other than their being so accustomed to fighting. That, I believe, is the definition of Sin’at Chinam, or, hatred for no reason. They are stuck in their argument and, when asked, admit that they cannot picture how to live with each other without arguing.
I spend a great deal of time working with people, many of whom are sinking in a quagmire of resentment and anger. People carry their anger for years, even after they have forgotten what provoked their anger. The hatred takes on a life of its own. That is Sin’at Chinam.
It is even more frustrating to observe people seeding such long-lasting resentments. One person phrases something in a poor manner, the other person is hurt, the first person is shocked that he provoked such a response and becomes so angry that he will say something hurtful and the conflict takes root. Neither one will recall exactly how the argument began, but it doesn’t matter; it takes on a life of its own. That is Sin’at Chinam.
I have often heard Rav Kook ZT”l quoted as saying, “The only way to repair Sin’at Chinam is Ahavat Chinam.” It seems that Rav Kook was focusing on the Sin’a, the hatred. I suggest that we focus instead on the Chinam, or ‘Free.’
People have difficulty acknowledging they pay a price for an argument. We pay a steep price even when we are 100% in the right. There is no Chinam – argument without a price – just as there is no Ahavah, or love without a price.
Love is not only experienced; it makes demands. Love demands patience, generosity, selflessness, understanding, empathy and much more. We make our first mistake when we think that either love or hate is Chinam – free, meaning that we do not pay a price.
When one person hears an insult he has a choice whether he is willing to ‘pay,’ meaning to invest effort in understanding what the other said or meant, or what the other was feeling that led him to speak the insult. When we are willing to ‘pay’ we will be able to find a solution.
However, if we focus on ‘Chinam,’ our desire to have love without having to pay, we will certainly be unwilling to ‘pay’ to repair a situation of Sin’a – hatred.
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