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Iyar 23

One who acts with compassion when firmness is called for will eventually act with cruelty when compassion is needed (Koheles Rabbah 7:33).

While mercy and compassion are highly valued character traits, sometimes they are inappropriate; instead, harsh discipline must be applied.

A young alcoholic woman who had been in several automobile wrecks related that one winter night, she totally ruined her father's new car because she was driving under the influence. She pleaded with the police officer to report this episode as a skidding accident, because she feared her father's wrath. The officer complied with her request.

This young woman subsequently was in another accident due to drunk driving. This time she sustained facial injuries; in spite of excellent cosmetic surgery, her former features were never fully restored. "That police officer thought he was being kind to me," she later said. "Had I been arrested for drunk driving, I might have been forced into treatment for my alcoholism, and maybe I never would have sustained the facial injuries."

True kindness which comes from our minds guiding our emotions will bring more kindness in its wake. Misguided kindness, brought on by our uncontrolled emotions, generally causes pain.

How can we avoid misguided kindness? One way is to ask others who are not influenced by our emotions for their opinion.

Today I shall...

try to be aware that even my highly commendable character traits, such as kindness, may be misapplied. I should look for guidance to avoid such mistakes.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

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