You may wonder why Paris Hilton is studying Kabbalah. You may wonder why William Hung tried out for American Idol. We often wonder why someone does something. Sometimes, unfortunately, we even assume we know. This is a very dangerous judgmental stance to take, and we should always avoid the conclusion that we know someone else’s motivations for doing what they do.
Not only is it almost impossible to gauge someone else’s motivations, but human beings are complicated creatures, and commonly have more than one motivation at any given moment.
Last week, I went out late one night to get my wife a Slurpie. I wanted to do a nice thing for her, but I also knew we needed milk for the kids’ cereal in the morning. I also didn’t want her to go out herself to the 7-Eleven at 11 o’clock at night, because it’s a little dangerous. Last but not least, I knew I could get myself some ice cream as well.
Which one of these motivations was the “real” motivation? Were they all equally important, or was one stronger?
A tool for spiritual growth
One of the paths to spiritual growth is called “tahara”, purity. One who is pure in even one trait is introduced to many spiritual benefits including the talent of dream interpretation, and sometimes even Divine Inspiration. To purify even one trait takes much internal work. It is not an easy task and no one can do it for you. Only you know the inner workings of your heart. Only you know your many and varied motivations for your actions.
You can start simply by introspecting and asking yourself why you did just about anything. Why did you get out of bed today? Was it out of habit? fear of not getting to work? a desire to accomplish? a need to be with others?
Once you’ve made a list of all the reasons why you did that act, try to put a qualifier on how important each motivation was – stronger or weaker. Then pick whichever one is most connected to your higher self, which motivation you respect the most and wish were the sole motivation for your behavior.
After identifying a particular motivation that you sense is more important or beneficial to you and the world, you are now more in touch with your soul and spirituality. You have become slightly holier.
The next step is to strengthen the motivation you desire most and weaken he other motivations. For example if fear of getting fired is a motivation to get out of bed, remind yourself that you really want to make a difference in the world. Being on time shows you and others that it’s important to you to be responsible and dedicated; you value a work ethic and you take your commitments seriously. If you get fired from this job, you’ll find another job that you will be super dedicated to.
This is one aspect of “tahara”. Three steps: 1. Introspect to know your many motivations for an act. 2. Weigh out those motivations to see which are stronger, weaker, more important, less important. 3. Strengthen the most important and weaken the others.
All of this is just one small aspect of one of the 48 tools for spiritual growth taught to us by our sages.