Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yesh Mussar Bagoyim

Chazal tell us that there is chochma, but not Torah amongst the nations of the world. I would like to include that they also have mussar as well.

During class recently, I accidentally interrupted another student during their presentation, a time we weren't supposed to be asking questions or making interjections of any sort. I guess my brain was on auto-pilot as I tried listening to what she said while simultaneously taking notes. To put it mildly, I was immediately mortified when she turned to me with a confused expression and the rest of the class also looked in my direction in silence. I quietly apologized and wished I could crawl into a hole in the wall and disappear.

During the break, I profusely apologized to her, explaining what I just wrote and admitted how rude my behavior was, even if it was entirely unintentional.

Later in class, during a group discussion, I also spoke too soon while another student was commenting on a diagram. The same student I had interrupted earlier turned to me and said rather bluntly, "You know, you have a tendency to interrupt people. It's really not nice."

This time, however, I simply said "You're right, thank you." After her remark, I made sure that I was very aware of who was speaking and made sure not to say anything when another person was talking. I honestly hadn't realized that my fast-talking, and often interrupting manner of speech was a big problem in my current academic setting. I guess I've become too used to the format of a quick give-and-take in casual conversation among my friends at YU or in learning. Regardless of the scenario, not being mindful of my tongue and when I should express myself does not behoove me whatsoever.

After we concluded for the day, I went over to the girl who mussared me out and apologized again while also thanking her for the rebuke. I told her about the concept of "mussar," which I couldn't really think of a good translation for, and explained that I appreciated her remonstrance for my interruptions. She smiled and said she can relate since she has a tendency to do that when she's talking with her family at home. Thankfully, we smoothed things over.

Since then, I've learned to be more conscious of when/how I say things, particularly in settings where people from non-Jewish backgrounds may not be familiar with the rapid conversation/exchanges that I have grown accustomed to. I certain never expected to receive mussar from a gentile classmate, but I am glad the opportunity presented itself, not only for my own self-correction, but also to allow me to learn from everyone around me in my daily life.

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