Stubbornly refusing to listen to or learn from others can cause a person a lot of unnecessary frustration and pain. In this week's Torah portion Pharaoh acts stubbornly when he refuses to listen to Moses' call to free the Jewish slaves. He pays a heavy price. Let's learn from this and not be stubborn.
In our story, a kid discovers that stubbornness doesn't pay.
WHAT GOES AROUND - COMES AROUND
"Mike, I think we've been around this block already. See, there's that same corner candy store we've already passed once."
Mike and Benji were trying to get to a playground in the next neighborhood. The guys were supposed to meet up with some friends for a pick-up touch football game, but they were having trouble finding their way.
"Yeah? Maybe, but I'm sure we'll find the park any minute now."
"Any minute? We've been walking so long, already. Hey, let's go into that store and ask directions - for sure the guy working there will know."
"What do we need to ask anyone for? I've got my own directions right here," he tapped his forehead. "Let's just keep going and I'm sure we'll find the place."
Following Mike's 'directions' the boys walked on until they came to the very same corner a third time.
"This is crazy, man!" Benji exclaimed. "There's that same store again! We're going in circles! This time, I'm going in to get directions."
"Well, leave me out of it," Mike huffed, refusing to follow. Benji ran into the store and ran back out a minute later with a big smile on his face.
"Okay, I wrote it all down. We just have to go right, then..."
"Hey, I told you I'm not interested," Mike cut in, his arms crossed. "I know perfectly well how to go on my own."
"Come off it. Don't be stubborn. We're lost and you know it. Now we'll just follow the directions and we'll get right there. Let's go."
Mike shook his head, "You can, if you want, but I'm going to figure it out myself."
Benji shrugged, followed the directions and quickly got to the playground to join the game in progress. Every once in a while he'd look around to see if Mike was coming but he was nowhere in sight. About an hour and a half later, the game ended and the kids split up to go home.
"Great game guys! Next week - same time, same place."
Benji started walking home, scratching his head wondering whatever happened to his buddy. On his way back he passed the same corner candy store and stopped in to buy a snack for the road. He had just stepped back out of the store when he heard someone call out his name. "Benji!" The boy looked up and saw Mike walking slowly toward him. The kid looked dog-tired and one of his sleeves was torn.
"Mike! What happened? Why didn't you show up? Why are you still here?"
"Um, well, I'm not exactly still here. I've been, um, kinda wandering all over. I don't know ... I just kept getting more and more lost. I even tried to cut through the woods and got seriously stuck in some thorn bushes. Finally I saw this store I recognized from before and...," he threw up his hands, "I realized I'd been way too stubborn about the whole thing. I was about to go in and ask for directions to the park. But since I found you here that means the game is over - so maybe instead I'll ask you for directions ... how to get home."
Q. How did Mike feel at first about asking for directions?
A. Even though he was lost he stubbornly refused to ask.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like it was okay to ask for help.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Mike discovered that day?
A. Up until then, he'd been acting stubbornly, insisting on doing everything himself, his own way. The experience of not only missing out on a fun day, but wandering around uncomfortably for hours, taught him that sometimes you just have to give in and listen to others.
Q. Is there ever a time that stubbornness is a positive thing?
A. When we tap into the trait of stubbornness and don't give up when we are trying to reach a worthwhile goal, it is very positive. Also, it's a positive thing to stubbornly refuse to do things that are unethical or harmful. But to stubbornly refuse to listen to advice or ask for help when needed is just plain - stubborn.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages tell us that a wise person is one who learns from everyone. What do you think this means?
A. Wisdom doesn't mean 'knowing it all.' Wisdom means that a person values worthwhile knowledge so much that he's willing to do whatever's necessary to acquire more, and often that means being willing to ask and accept the advice of others.
Q. What do you think might be the relationship between stubbornness and humility?
A. Many times we act stubbornly simply because we feel too conceited to admit to others or to ourselves, that we don't know something or have made a mistake. A truly humble person will easily admit these things and will not be stubborn over trivialities.