A group of men in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, sitting together in a circle discussing their inner journey. Our cell phones rest in a shoe box under my chair. It was a place of true vulnerability for all of us.
As a man spoke, the rest remained silent. Listening. Witnessing. Then the next man spoke without reference to what the previous man said. There was no posturing, or trying to outdo what the previous person had to say. The tone was quiet and respectful. Such is the magic of Mussar for Men.
Our meetings begin with a sacred listening experience. Each man checks in on where they are with their Mussar practice, sharing an incident from the prior two weeks. While there was a large range in what people had to say, a common theme emerged. Many men talked about relationships, making mindful decisions to make space for others or to holding their own space.
The soul trait of Humility governs how much space we take up in the universe. As Alan Morinis wrote, “No more than my space, no less than my place.” We need to find that middle place between arrogance and meekness to occupy our proper place in the world. When we move to occupy that middle ground, it opens the door to a profound transformation in our relationships.
Whatever your gender, here are a few examples of how to apply this mussar secret to good relationships.
Mussar Secret To Good Relationships Example 1:
Imagine that you don’t get along with your sister in-law and her husband. There is a long history of arguments with your spouse when you visit them. The dynamic is as tired as you feel after these visits. You observe some patterns in their family that seem unhealthy to you. When you bring them up, your partner gets defensive, and you fight.
What if instead, you decided to occupy less space? Instead of imposing your opinion on your spouse, you just observe and stay silent. You might find that your partner fills the space you have opened, and brings up the very things you are observing.
Mussar Secret To Good Relationships Example 2
Imagine that you are mad at one of your teen children. You sit there fuming, too mad to go in the other room and deal with the situation. What if you allowed yourself to bring Loving-Kindness into your awareness? Imagine a softening, a change in perspective, and a path towards change. Now see yourself occupying the parental space to go and deal with the issue from a place of caring instead of anger. The door is open to a real conversation, instead of yelling and door slamming.
Know How Much Space You Are Occupying
The Mussar secret to good relationships is to know where you sit along the spectrum from arrogance to meekness at any given moment. Whether you are dealing with a coworker, your boss, a stranger, or loved one, knowing your place, and how much space to take up requires self discernment and sensitivity to the needs of the other. When something feels off to you, chances are that you can make a shift in your Humility to bring a change to the dynamic.
Each of us has the capability to have healthy relationships in all areas of our life. Think about a relationship you’d like to improve. Where do you sit along the spectrum from arrogance to meekness? What step can you take to change the amount of space you occupy to bring things towards balance?
Want to start your own Mussar journey? Take the Soul Trait Quiz.
Image credit: Photo by Michael Mazzone on Unsplash