Do you feel like you’re in control of your life? To what extent are you the one making the decisions? How much of the way you think and behave is shaped by outside influences?
One of the primary reasons for unhappiness or frustration in life is because we sense that our lives are controlled by others. This feeling goes against one of our most fundamental traits as a human being, which is the desire to be free.
This is especially true in the digital age. Our lives are becoming increasingly controlled by our smartphones and social media. This ceaseless feed of information erodes our ability to know who we are and to be true to ourselves. We sense manipulation by forces which don’t have our best interests in mind.
One of the greatest illustrations in history of mankind’s ability to withstand the influences of the day was Noah.
In this week’s Torah portion we read how Noah retained his values and convictions notwithstanding living in a world that was entirely morally decadent. It was only him and his family that G-d saved. The rest of the world were beyond redemption.
How does one man stand up to the entire world?
Victor Frankel, the prominent Viennese psychiatrist taught, that everything can be taken from us except the ability to choose our response in any given set of circumstances. This is what makes us human.
As Jews we have been especially empowered to influence our surroundings. We must therefore constantly aspire to be “influencers” rather than the reverse. We must also be especially vigilant to the subtle but powerful influences which corrupt and obstruct our sense of our identity and purpose.
It is for this reason that our people have played a unique role throughout history in their contribution to the spiritual and moral wellbeing of civilization, which is fundamental to its sustainability.
Human beings can choose either to influence or to be influenced.
There are only two modes of operation. There is no neutral position.
It is a choice we make every moment of our lives.