Rabbi Simon Jacobson: This is Simon Jacobson. Good evening and welcome to the show. This week we will be dealing with a sensitive and difficult topic because of its personal nature. The topic is “Abusive Relationships.”
Unfortunately, it’s one of those topics that needs to be addressed because of its prevalence—more than we would like in our lives—to the point where many people have grown up either in an abusive home or have been victims of abusive relationships. Part of the abuse is also the silence that surrounds it (they say that the silence is worse than the abuse), because the silence invalidates us and doesn’t even allow us to express our feelings in these situations. That’s part of the abusive cycle or pattern that quiets and silences us.
So I thought it would be a highly appropriate topic for this show, obviously with the disclaimer that we can hardly exhaust the issue on a show like this, yet, we can at least touch upon it and give the courage and the ability to speak about it.
I believe one of the first ways of freeing ourselves from being hostages, from the tentacles of any type of abusive situation is the ability to communicate, to speak, to ask, to challenge. One of the unfortunate symptoms of abuse is the silence that surrounds it. The cover up is worse than the actual crime.
This topic is not something that I chose to address necessarily, it’s just a reality that we live in. So reflecting that reality, I believe that this show is some type of a mirror that reflects real situations. Sometimes they’re beautiful situations but sometimes they’re painful ones. I don’t think we should hesitate or resist the need to address them.
As always, the phones are open and you can call in at 212-244-1050.
I’d like to begin with a few of the points or questions that I’ve been asked about the issue of abuse, both in the classes that I give and places I travel to and people I meet. It’s a topic that’s on many people’s minds, and once they have the courage and the strength and the wherewithal to address it, there are interesting things that come up, particularly from people who have been in that type of situation.
Here are some of the questions that I’ve heard around the topic of abusive relationships. One is, can we really get over them? Is it a situation that creates a victim forever? Can we free ourselves from a situation like that?
Others ask the question, Is childhood abuse, growing up in an abusive home a myth? Is it as common as some say? Is it really much more prevalent than we would like to believe, or, as many have recently argued, is it fabricated? Is it something that is either suggested to children in therapy, or in other situations where there’s suggestibility and people want to believe something, can the suggestion of a therapist or a psychologist create that myth, even if people don’t have direct memories of abuse in their homes, That’s what some argue.
Can a child protect him or herself from abusive adults? Clearly, a child is, in a sense, a victim in the hands of that adult. So if the child is vulnerable, how can a child protect itself?
And more importantly, there are questions about G-d. Why doesn’t G-d protect the child? That is a particularly painful question because of its nature—G-d creates life, gives life to a child, and then puts him in a situation, in a home, where he may endure abuse. Why would G-d do something so cruel to a child that would allow such a thing to a vulnerable child? It’s one thing with an adult who has the tools and the resources to protect him or herself, but a child…
Can we heal from these childhood wounds? And how can we help other children who are suffering in the hands of abusive adults or parents?
Of course when you deal with abuse, it’s not just about children and parents, it means abuse in a broader sense, but to divide it into two, one is abuse where you have someone who is not an equal, whether it’s a student, or a child, someone who’s vulnerable and is abused by someone who is a superior or in a position of authority, and then there’s abuse where there are two equals, so to speak, two adults, and so on.
I’d like to begin with the topic, is abuse as prevalent as some would like to say or is it fabricated? I’d like to throw that question out to anyone out there who would like to comment on that, particularly if there are any psychologists or social workers or therapists listening to the show. People who have been in the field obviously have experience and it’s not an issue of theory—my theory vs. someone else’s theory. Experience is really what should dictate our view on this topic: is it as prevalent as some would have us believe or is it really exaggerated?
The question is really a very important one because in truth, most of us are uncomfortable when we hear of horrible situations where some person abuses another, or someone grows up in an abusive environment. And if we could believe that it’s not all that prevalent, in a way it allows us to sleep a little more peacefully.
However, if it is a real reality and much more common than we would like to believe, the fact that we are unaware of it should not be a reason not to address it.
I should begin by saying that when you’re dealing with an issue like abuse, there are many, many levels of it, from the most overt and extreme level of abuse where somebody actually physically, emotionally, or psychologically or sexually abuses another person, and then there’s abuse on a more subtle level.
It can be verbal abuse, it can be subtle (in the sense where it’s abuse but it can be borderline abuse), or it can be an abuse where a parent abandons the child. It may not be active abuse but can be what is called passive abuse, where a parent is not available for a child. Or another form of abuse is when someone who is expected or is obligated to be in a situation to be there as a support abandons that post.
So really, when you broaden the spectrum, one can say that each of us has endured some type of abusive situation in our lives. We live now in America in a more peaceful time, but many of our parents… my parents are refugees who came over from Russia after World War II. In many ways they grew up in an abusive environment as well. When I say abusive, they may have had healthy homes and wonderful parents, however the abuses were that they were uprooted from a community, from the cities they lived in, the language they spoke, and had to transplant their lives in the United States.
That is the type of abuse that is based on circumstances. Why do I call it abuse? The truth is it shouldn’t be called abuse, it should be called the traumas of relocation, of war, and so on. But the reason I want to connect it to the level of abuse is that I want to show that all of us in some way are affected by the environment around us. Abuse doesn’t always mean that someone physically or in some immediate way abused you, but that life itself is abusive.
Interestingly, in the Kabbalah, when you talk about this in the context of Jewish mysticism where reality and life is put in the context of a larger cosmic picture, it explains there that there is a concept called tzimtzum. Some of you listeners may be aware of the concept, in Lurianic Kabbalah, which is from Reb Isaac Luria, the holy Arizal who lived in the 16th century, who explains the concept of tzimtzum. Tzimtzum literally means contraction. But it refers to, on a cosmic level, a cosmic black hole where all existential issues that we struggle with originate.
What that means is that G-d, in some mysterious way, conceals His presence, His energy, His manifestation from existence, which allows for our independent existence to be, and for me, for you, to walk around and feel that we are self-contained individuals.
In a way, that is the first abusive state. Not that G-d abused us, G-d forbid, but rather an abusive state because it created a dichotomy where we can imagine or have an illusion of an existence independent of anything around us, which really allows the potential for any type of abuse.
So in itself it’s not an abusive situation—in fact, if we felt at all times that we’re connected to our source of sustenance, or we’re connected to our mission, none of us would be able to hurt another person.
The fact is that all human beings, and I speak again from this cosmic perspective, are all like musical notes in one large musical composition. So how is it possible that one musical note can harm another in any way? Or to use the example of the human body, we’re like one large organism. One person may be the right arm, the left arm, the heart, the liver, the mind. And we’re are all part of one large organism.
So how is it possible that one person can hurt another? Because we don’t feel and sense that we’re part of one family, to the point the we can be selfish and hurt others.
I don’t just mean strangers, I mean even our own children, our own relatives, our spouses. The fact is, we feel we are self-contained and another person is not you. I’ll go even a step beyond that—we can even abuse ourselves. We can humiliate ourselves, we can look at ourselves with low self-esteem. And all this, all different forms of abuse, is all the result of a certain dichotomy, where we are not in touch with our mission; we are not in touch with our source.
It is interesting that animals, the animal kingdom, are not abusive to each other. They follow a script. It’s true there are animals that are predators, and others are their prey. But there’s a natural balance that’s part of the script of nature. And they just follow that order.
It is the human being who has free will, who has the ability to sense that “I am not connected to some type of order, and therefore I can behave in any kind of outrageous, abusive fashion.”
So in essence, existence itself is an abusive one, and life is harsh. That doesn’t necessarily justify any of us adding to that type of situation, or exaggerating. I’m just stating it for the record to be able to put things in context.
When we know that, then we know what challenge we are faced with when we’re dealing with abusive situations.
Looking at it in a psychological way, the psychology of life is such that a newborn child, or a child in its mother’s womb, cannot be abused if the mother is healthy. Of course it can be abused if the mother is an alcoholic or in some other way ingests foods or other items that may be destructive to the child, but in a natural environment, a child in its mother’s womb is sustained by the food and by the air that the mother eats and breathes. And for that child, until there is some type of tense situation, tension, or abuse, that child is in a healthy environment.
What happens is that since human beings are human and parents aren’t perfect, parents may begin to abuse that child in different ways, either in a passive way through abandonment or not providing the proper needs, or in an aggressive way, with overt abuse: a parent who simply is not fit to be a parent and just uses the child as an object and doesn’t treat it like a human being.
Okay, we have Arty on line one.
Caller: Hi. I have a question. I’ve worked in a place for many years and over the years the people come and go. I work in a very large section, there are four different sections, and they hire certain people like temps and people who come in to work part-time or on a temporary basis, and over the years generally people come and go.
A young girl came in to work as a temp about a year and a half ago. I really didn’t pay attention to her generally and the last few weeks we became very friendly. Generally she’s very complimentary and very flattering to me. Right after I got a haircut, she put her fingers through my hair, and generally she always likes what I wear (we have a uniform that we wear, but sometimes on Fridays you wear what you want) and she’s always flattering me.
Jacobson: Is there a question?
Caller: Well, I want to ask how would you interpret something like this? Is it a friendship or a flirtation, so to speak? I never really noticed it before but last five or six weeks she’s been very, very nice. She’s from South America…
Jacobson: Is she your age?
Caller: No, she’s younger than I am.
Jacobson: Much younger?
Caller: Yeah, she’s about 20-23 years younger. She doesn’t know how old I am. As I said, I never noticed her really, I never said good morning or good night, and now it’s become a very friendly thing. I mean, she’s married and as a matter of fact her husband works in the office, not in my department, but he’s been working there for about ten years.
Jacobson: Are you married?
Caller: No, I’m divorced.
Jacobson: Well, if she’s married then obviously she has a relationship that she’s in and I would be very careful. The topic of this show is abusive relationships, and you don’t want this to turn into an abusive relationship. So I think it’s a kind gesture and I think it’s kind of her to be friendly, but I think you should be cautious and wary, I mean, she’s a married woman and you should not really be getting involved in any way that’s beyond just a friendly co-worker.
Caller: No, I know nothing will materialize from it but she’s come to the point where she’s coming on really strong. It’s not that anyone notices in the office.
Jacobson: Listen, Arty, you’re an adult and you have to be disciplined and behave in a way that’s appropriate.
Well, as a segue, when you say abusive relationships, abusive relationships can also be between adults who are at work and co-workers and people who prey upon someone who may be vulnerable and needy and stuff like that.
Obviously, this is all in the context of what we’re discussing here.
Jacobson: The first abusive relationship that I would like to address is the one which always touches me most because of the painful implications which is abuse against children, children in the hands of parents, because I believe that all abuse, even as adults, always begins at home, in what we experienced and in what we’ve seen around us.
The reason I began by discussing this on a cosmic level, is not that I wanted to create some type of abstract theory, but rather to be able to put things in context so that we should understand that we live in a world that has the potential for abuse at all times. Even if you don’t meet an abusive person, even if everything seems healthy, there’s always that potential because once we’re out of the womb, we’re not in that type of connection, we don’t sense the intricate and intrinsic thread that connects us all, then there’s always the potential for one person to hurt another.
It may be very subtle or it may be very overt, but that’s just a question of measure. Is abuse something that can be measured by quantity? Obviously there’s no question that very physical or overt abuse is much more reprehensible, but conceptually speaking, any time you ignore another person, any time that you’re insensitive to another person, even if they can defend themselves and even if we won’t call that an abusive behavior because it may not cause any damage, that is a reflection of the intrinsic dichotomy in existence itself.
The fact that there are parents or people who can abuse someone in a much more overt way, on a much more extreme level, originates from inability of seeing that existence and all people are part of one higher truth and one higher reality.
So talking about children in vulnerable situations, I want to address one of the questions I began with earlier. I personally find that abusive homes are much more prevalent than most people would like to believe. It may be a result of our own highly materialistic, prosperous times, or it may be a result of something that exists from generations back. I can’t answer whether things are worse today than they were or not. But one thing’s for sure. Today things are spoken about more. And I think that’s what makes some people uncomfortable to the extent that they suggest there’s an exaggeration of abusive situations in homes.
From my personal experience, I lean that it’s much more prevalent than we would like to believe; however, because of the discomfort involved, many of us would just like to push it under the carpet and not address it.
The question, of course, is on G-d. What exactly is going on? How could G-d put a child into a home like that? And how does G-d help protect the child?
There’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs during extreme situations of abuse. I’ll assume that our listeners all know what hypothermia is—hypothermia is a state of being which usually occurs with young children who fall under the ice, or fall into very cold water. The body goes into a state of hypothermia where, in order to preserve the vital organs, the entire body shuts down—the blood circulation, the heartbeat—to the point that people may even think that the person is dead. There was a time when they thought children were dead, unfortunately, even though they weren’t.
However, the truth is, when the body is in a state of hypothermia, the body is protecting itself. I always found it literally a miracle that the body has that type of wisdom to know that it has to protect itself to the point of going into such a state.
I think that there’s a concept, and this is my own coinage, called psychological hypothermia. It’s been demonstrated psychologically that children who have suffered serious abuse go into an out-of-body state; that when a child endures serious abuse in the hands of a parent, the child simply cannot tolerate the fact that a parent who’s supposed to be a source of love can hurt the child. Remember for a child there’s nothing outside of the home. Walking over that threshold is like walking off the planet. So this is its sustenance. For a young child, a parent is all that exists.
A child cannot accept that a parent who is loving could hurt it, so a child goes into this state of “psychological hypothermia,” where they almost cut themselves off from that experience. I’ve always wondered where that wisdom came from.
Now in no way am I suggesting that abuse is a positive thing, but perhaps that’s G-d’s way of intervening.
It is true that G-d cannot take away free will, and each of us has the power to hurt another human being. Parents particularly are blessed with the greatest gift of all, the gift of life. But as every gift that is given to us, we’re also given the will and the gift of being able to choose to protect, nurture, and cultivate that life in our lives. However, the other side of the coin is that we also have the choice to in some way hurt or abuse that person.
So G-d cannot take away that free will. And as difficult as it is to understand, it’s part of the mystery of the Holocaust, a personal holocaust, the mystery of pain, and the mystery of loss. We will never understand why people are hurt in that way. But it is part of the mystery of existence itself that we must have free will, because if there were no free will, then basically there would be no purpose for our lives.
A writer, a cynic once said that we must believe in free will—we have no choice.
So free will is a necessity; an inherent component in existence that among other things allows for the potential for hurting and abusing someone. Yet, for every challenge that is given to us in our lives, we’re also provided with resources to protect ourselves. Children who have suffered serious abuse sometimes, in a way, lock up the real child in themselves into a “closet” or a “box,” while another personality emerges that endures the abuse. That’s why children who have suffered serious abuse have this type of personality, not a split personality, but one where they are able to create another reality in order to be able to tolerate life. In a way, the child that was really there is locked up. And as they grow up into adults, the difficulty in their lives is to be able to reintegrate, to reconnect to real life. This is what’s called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or other names that are used in psychological terms.
This is an extreme example, of course, but if we’re looking for G-d, meaning where G-d is in all this, sometimes it is G-d working in mysterious ways that helps protect the child from the abuse of its parent, so that one day, when it is able to emerge and leave home, that child within can return and reclaim its own innocence, its own beauty.
So G-d works in mysterious ways and the key is to know that there’s hope that no matter what situation you’ve ever been in, no matter how abusive, it is incumbent upon you, and it behooves you, to find a way through it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may be difficult, it may seem impossible, but it’s critical to find those friends, healthy friends, who will lend that supporting hand that helps you reconnect to G-d, reconnect to your soul, reconnect to the resources that allow you to get out of the difficult situation.
Unfortunately, part of abuse is the perpetuation and victimization, where we continue to be connected either directly or indirectly to those painful situations.
I find people who are literally the most refined human beings who have come through the most horrendous and unbearable situations. One could not imagine how one could have grown up under those circumstances, yet they have, and they are deeply refined human beings.
I know others who have been broken to the point of complete devastation. Of course, we’re not blaming anyone. Anyone in a situation like that is a sacred human being, has their own sacred right of choice. What we see from that is that the power of the soul is inestimable. We have the deepest resources, like a well that is perhaps deeper than we can ever imagine, and when we reach into it we find resources, if we allow ourselves to reach. That is the key challenge.
Let’s go to Sarah on the air.
Caller: Hello Rabbi. I would like to ask you a question. I have come to the conclusion that there is a gene that some people are born with that makes them completely unfeeling toward others. I come from a physically abusive home, the horrors of which I cannot describe in a short phone conversation.
I have a sibling who grew up in the same home who was far less physically abused but he’s a very cruel, unfeeling, unemotional person. It is impossible to communicate with him because he hears only his own thoughts. He’s exactly like my mother, and I have a cousin like that, too. And I began to wonder, since my brother and another member in my family are so unfeeling toward others and cruel, without being physically abusive, is there a gene that gets passed on and I wonder what you think.
On the other hand, people always turn to me for advice, and I’ve always been the recipient of people’s confidences. Parents turn to me about their children, my peers turn to me. I’m the exact opposite.
Jacobson: Well, I wouldn’t want to get them off the hook that easily by just saying that it’s a gene and just dismissing it that way because then you’re basically saying that they’re not responsible for their behavior—your brother or your mother or others that you’ve described—and that’s something that I find a little difficult.
Caller: But if you knew them you would know that they recognize no responsibility.
Jacobson: Are you willing to forgive them because it’s a gene?
Caller: No, I cannot forgive them. I would like to but I can’t.
Jacobson: Well, my view on the matter is that sometimes people’s choices or their low self-esteem or whatever fears they may be experiencing can be so profound that it may seem like a genetic flaw.
Caller: Yes, but that sounds like a cop-out to me. A lot of people have low self-esteem but they don’t take it out on others.
Jacobson: No, I’m talking about calling them on it. I’m not talking about a cop-out at all.
Caller: You can’t communicate with the kind of people I’m talking about. I’ve tried for many, many years with my brother. He doesn’t hear you.
Jacobson: I understand. Do you think it’s helpful to say it’s a gene? How does that help the situation?
Caller: No, I don’t think it’s helpful. I’ve begun to wonder, why are they like that and I am not?
Jacobson: Sarah, listen, first of all, I must say that I empathize with you entirely, and not even knowing what kind of abuse you’ve endured, I can imagine the worst.
Caller: Anything you could imagine…
Jacobson: So my empathy goes out to you and I’m sure our listeners feel the same as well. If you’d like to share more with me, if I can be of any level of support after we finish the call, I invite you to leave your number with the engineer, and I’d be happy to communicate with you further.
Caller: What number would I call?
Jacobson: Just stay on hold and give him your number. And I say that to all the listeners out there as well. Not everything has to be said on the air. Some things are more appropriate to be spoken about personally. However, I want to say this, Sarah. Despite the challenge—and I know many people who are exactly as you described, impossible to reason with, they only see it their way—I don’t like to believe that we have to give up hope.
I don’t think you should be doing it because it’s your own sibling and your own parent and it’s too close to you, but I don’t like to give up hope on the human spirit. And even though there may be a gene that’s affected, genetics is a very complicated area. It’s proven today that genes are sometimes affected by behavior. It’s not always a flaw from birth. It’s nature vs. nurture. Sometimes something in nurture affects our nature to the point that you can literally see a physiological difference.
So the point is, we both agree that your brother and your mother are absolutely behaving in an inappropriate way. The extent, whether it’s genetic or beyond genetic, or whatever it may be, is a question that may be one of semantics.
The key is what to do about it? Are you out of the range of fire? Can you protect yourself now? Are you in a situation where you have moved away from them and don’t allow yourself to be in the line of fire?
Jacobson: Okay, that’s the main thing. I’m glad to hear that. Is there anything you would like to say to anyone who might be in a similar situation—how they should get themselves away from it or protect themselves?
Caller: Well, I would say you should try as hard as you can to penetrate the armor that these people wear, and finally, you have to step away, because you have your own life to live, too. That’s all I can say.
Jacobson: So, are you happy today?
Jacobson: So you still feel the consequences of …
Caller: Oh yes. I always will.
Jacobson: Well, you sound like a very fine person and I’m sure that you bring love to others in your life.
Caller: I really do. I am a loving person.
Jacobson: And may you appreciate love in a way that some of us can never appreciate it. You know, the eclipse of the sun can sometimes teach us to appreciate sunlight more than the sun does. I give you my blessings and my prayers.
Caller: I really appreciate it.
Jacobson: We’ve been talking about children who have been in abusive situations, and that was a very moving call from Sarah.
Getting back to the issue of children protecting themselves, there are many ways to do that but let’s go to the phones since I see there are a few calls coming in. We go to Charlie on line 2.
Caller: Hi. How are you Rabbi? I think it’s a very interesting topic tonight. I was thinking about the whole hereditary addictive aspect of what you’re discussing.
Jacobson: And what are your thoughts?
Caller: That it’s its own form of abuse, and it carries on sometimes from generation to generation to generation more than a couple of times. It has a lot of its own confusion because of course people want to love their parents and so they have difficulty finding fault in them whether it be alcoholism or any other type of addiction.
Jacobson: Have you had personal experiences or know people who are abusive, without exposing too much of course?
Caller: Yes, I know of some situations such as what I’m describing.
Jacobson: The thing about the genetic issue is a very complicated one because often there can be very profound experiences that actually have an effect on our genetics. That’s been proven to be the case.
At the same time, the key here is not so much how we classify it, but what we do about it. There’s no question that a person who’s really been hurt has to get away from the line of fire. That’s what I was discussing with the previous caller. No matter how much hope you have for the spirit of the human being, criminal behavior is criminal behavior. A child has to get away.
I tell this to many people who have had abusive parents. You don’t have to feel that you need to win. You don’t need to feel that you have to go back into the situation and even forgive. Sometimes the person is just beyond reach. And it’s their problem. A parent or any adult or any individual who’s been abusive, that’s their problem: they have to find a way to mend and correct it. You, the individual, the person who’s been on the receiving end, have to move on and discover your life.
But often, abuse has a crazy vicious cycle that holds us victim—even when we get away from it and we want to get even, or we want to win, or we still hold onto it. Anyway, I appreciate your call. Thank you.
(Announcement break about the Wednesday Night Class at 8:00pm, 346 West 89th St. corner Riverside Drive and the Delaware River Camping Shabbaton on August 11-13)
Jacobson: I would like to also say that when dealing with a topic of this nature, the key is not just the analysis of the issue, but the ability to be able to heal from it, to grow out of it. Let’s go to the phone. We have Margie on the air.
Caller: Listen, I have a big problem. I’ve got my granddaughter from child welfare and they are giving me a fit. First she had run away and she’s back into the system, but yet, I got to go to court every month and the two lawyers they gave me, neither one of them is taking messages or nothing. Just leaving in the child, and all. And I need some help. I don’t have any money but I need some help bad, so I was just wondering is there a way to get somebody to help me get this thing out and let the people know what the system is doing to people?
Jacobson: Margie, I appreciate your call. If you leave your number with the engineer, we’ll try to help you out in any way we can.
Well, there’s abuse all over the place and I really feel that it’s a gift that we can be a platform here. If anybody is in a situation where you may need help immediately, and you happen to be listening to this show, obviously my heart and the lines are open. You can call and we’ll try to help you in any way we can.
In a broader sense, the theme of the show is trying to address how each of us can in some way be less abusive in our own way. We all have the potential to be both an abuser and a victim. One of the things that’s so beautiful about charity, and the ability to help each other—and when I say “charity” I don’t just mean financially, but volunteer work and every gesture that people make—is that is such a simple way to help each other, to help each other heal.
In our community and in our society in the United States, charity is a very big thing. But it goes far beyond the ability to give to each other. That imbalance that I discussed earlier, that dichotomy, where individuals feel that they are independent organisms instead of part of one large cohesive unit, the way to challenge that is by doing those gestures, when we behave in a charitable way, when we go out of our way and go beyond the letter of the law, not by obligation, to help another person.
So the real way to counter any type of abusive situation is, what each of us can do, is by being kind to each other. Again, I’m not discussing the immediate situation of someone who’s in the line of fire and has to deal with the immediate reality of it. But if you want to know what you can do in general, next time you go on the train, or you travel, or you meet a stranger, make that kind word or gesture.
New Yorkers are known all over the United States to be abrasive, aggressive, and very impolite.
But the fact of the matter is, that’s a stereotype. Sometimes you find New Yorkers to be wonderful people. There are millions of us in this city here, and one of the beautiful things that we find is that when a person makes that gesture, in a way, it reverses the trend of the divisiveness and the separation that materialism imposes upon us.
As I say many times on this show, the formula goes this way: materialism divides, spirituality unites. When we see ourselves as purely materialistic individuals, then our bodies are separate.
You sit in your space and place—physicality occupies time and space—and I sit in my space. There’s no way that I can give you my space without standing up. The same is true with food. If I eat that food, you can’t have that food. And if I have that money, you can’t have that money.
When it comes to spirituality, when it comes to true love, two people can be sitting in different spaces, but their hearts can go out to each other and they become like one.
I know people who sometimes sit near each other at a party or at a play or in the subway, and they’re the greatest strangers. They’re sitting right near each other. And then there are others who can be thousands of miles apart, but their hearts are one.
So the way to battle any abusive situation is to be a loving person yourself and never succumb to being another victim, even if you yourself have endured abuse. Don’t perpetuate it into the next generation.
Let’s go to Carol on the air.
Caller: Hi. I was calling about my boss. He’s very abusive. A lot of people have left the department. What he’s doing is getting rid of all the people who have been there a long time and replacing them with temps so that he can give them less salary, less vacation. Isn’t that illegal? Couldn’t you get a lawsuit? Isn’t that discrimination?
Jacobson: How is he abusive, if I may ask? Is it verbally or physically or emotionally?
Caller: Verbally, yes, but my concern now is just the fact that they’re letting all the older people go who’ve been there many years and replacing them with temps. Isn’t that age discrimination? I think that’s abusive. They were dedicated for all those years and now they’re just letting them go.
Jacobson: Carol, are you suffering as well?
Caller: Yes. I mean, I’m not yet but I’m sure I’m going to be next. It hasn’t happened to me yet.
Jacobson: Well, what form of abuse?
Caller: Well, I’ve been working there for many years and I’m afraid of losing my job to a temp. My job isn’t going to be eliminated but they could just replace me and say, “You’re out of here.”
Jacobson: But how does the abuse manifest itself?
Caller: I think it’s abuse because it shows a lack of appreciation for all the many years and dedication that I’ve put in.
Jacobson: You mean, just firing people…
Caller: With no reason, no reason at all.
Jacobson: Does this boss of yours have a boss himself? Does he have a superior? Or is he the top guy?
Caller: No, he has a top person.
Jacobson: Have you ever considered speaking to that person, or do you feel that you can suffer consequences from that?
Caller: Yes. He’s a vice president, so I would have to go pretty high up to…
Jacobson: Well, based on what you’re describing briefly, I don’t know all the dynamics and details, but maybe you should pre-empt it by getting yourself out of there and finding yourself a good job. You obviously have credentials and years of experience.
If you see this coming, why not prevent it by getting away from it as quickly as possible?
Caller: Because I’ve been with this company a long time. It’s a good company. I have an excellent salary and a lot of vacation time and I really would like to stay there.
Jacobson: Yes, but it sounds like you’re getting the axe. I mean, legally speaking, it really depends whether this is a city agency, or whether it’s a private company. Certain abuse is illegal—sexual abuse or other types of harassment.
But he could always justify firing people by giving some type of cockamamie excuse.
Caller: But it’s only the older people who are leaving. He’s only firing people who have been there 30 years or so.
Jacobson: And is there something in the contract that calls for mandatory retirement?
Caller: No, nothing like that.
Jacobson: As sad as the situation is, I’m at a loss and I’m not sure what to say to you. The only thing is, I think that you have to protect yourself as much as possible. Are you coming to that age yourself?
Jacobson: Well, unfortunately, much of society is driven by youth worship and young people. I guess you have a lot of experience, and that comes with strengths. Perhaps your experience will prevail and they will keep you on. But I don’t have a direct suggestion. If you’d like to leave your number, I can call you back and find out more information and perhaps make a suggestion or two. Okay, thank you Carol for the call.
Obviously each of us has to look into our own hearts and see if there’s a situation where we may be hurting another person, willingly or unwillingly. That’s what a true person of integrity and honesty always has to be looking at. We may be doing things inadvertently, and need to look at ourselves in that type of fashion.
At the same time, we also need to protect ourselves from those who perhaps perpetrate and treat us in an abusive way, and not allow ourselves to get caught in the trap of bitterness and pain that continues to perpetuate that type of negative energy.
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Let’s go to the phones. We go to AJ.
Caller: Good evening Rabbi. In relation to these abuses, what I’d like to mention to the public is that when we had a revolution, there were a lot of abuses but there were a lot of people willing to make a fight out of it and really make big sacrifices. Some of them lost their lives, where about 40% of the people remained Loyalists. People have to be more socially conscious and charitable to the responsible, religious people in the country and make those kind of sacrifices to vote and pay attention to what’s going on in the country before the water goes over the dam, because then it’s too late.
Really, to a lot of people, unfortunately, they want you to sympathize with their situations, they want you to help them, but prior to that, until they get hit, until they suffer, they’re really not given the proper attention to the overall social issues of the country.
I notice this all the time. There’s an enormous amount of ungratefulness in society these days. That’s been the hallmark of the day: ungratefulness for the people who make the sacrifices for society, while people want to sit back and let the other guy carry the heavy load.
Jacobson: Are you suggesting that there are people who are like crybabies, who just suffer and instead of taking responsibility, just bemoan their situation?
Caller: Well, naturally, these people need help, but the thing is, as a general rule, people are not as grateful as they should be for what they’re getting, and then those who could do something when they are able, people who have money and time, will spend it on all sorts of things other than what the social fabric of the country needs.
And they hang onto their money to the last gunshot. You have to support good things if you want something good. If you want good music you have to support good music, if you give a lot of money to horrendous music, which we have today, then we have horrendous music.
Jacobson: Okay, thank you AJ for the call. We go to Norman.
Caller: Thank you Rabbi. I’d like to respond, if I could, to the young lady who called a few minutes ago who addressed the issue of people who are being fired, predominately because they are old, and she claims that her boss is firing them and hiring temps, obviously to pay less money and not pay benefits, etc.
That’s against the law, Rabbi. Those people who are being fired just for that reason should get an attorney, should come together and bring an action against that employer. That’s not permitted in this country, if she’s giving us all the facts.
Jacobson: No, I appreciate that. As a matter of fact, I was going to take her number…
Caller: But the issue is that your audience needs to know that people cannot be arbitrarily fired at the workplace for no reason whatsoever, though the world celebrates youth as you pointed out.
Jacobson: No, I completely agree. I appreciate your call and I reiterate that the audience should listen to that and people should take a stand.
If there is an abusive situation, they should not allow it to penetrate their lives. This country, thank G-d, has many rules and many laws that allow us all to protect our rights. Unfortunately, many of those laws cannot penetrate into the home where parents may be able to hurt their children. Even though that should be illegal, it’s a difficult situation because where should the government intervene? The government wants to be careful not to intervene and take away that type of autonomy because then there can be abuse on that level as well.
You’ve been listening to Toward a Meaningful Life with Simon Jacobson and I want to wish us all that we should have the power to be able to rise above an abusive situation and really hold on to the strongest foundation in our lives — our spirit, our soul, and G-d. Thank you.