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Thought for the Day: It's About Trust

If you haven't seen the "It's Not About the Nail" video, I suggest you invest 87 seconds (the other 25 are credits, for crying out loud) of your life to watch it.  Basically, she has a nail stuck in her forehead and is complaining about pain, pressure, even snagged clothing... and how she just doesn't know what to do.  He keeps trying to suggest that have the nail removed from the middle of her forehead.  She is frustrated that he won't just listen.  He finally bites his lip really, really hard, then listens for a few seconds, then says, "That must be really hard."  She is awash with gratitude, moves to hug him... with predictably painful results.  He is totally mystified, mentions the nail... and they are back to square one.  Everyone who has ever been in a relationship can appreciate the humor.

I forgot my earbuds the other day and spend my entire bike ride contemplating this video and the message.  I finally realized the problem and solution.  It is obvious one you ask one question that neither of them asks.  Each is so focused on the nail -- they both see the nail as a metaphor; he to her missing the obvious solutions to life's problems, she to him missing the obvious solution to the problems in their relationship.  They are both so focused on what the other is missing that neither believes they are missing anything except that they can't get the other to see the obvious.  One question will stop them both in their tracks and instantly put them at the beginning of the path to truly dealing with this and all other issues.

Here's the question:  Why is the nail there?

If he would ask that question, he would stop suggesting they just yank that nail out.  After all, maybe it is solving some other problem.  I know someone who was told by his doctor not to quit smoking.  Why not?  Because he was so anxious that stopping smoking would put him in a constant state of turmoil, raising his blood pressure and putting him at immediate risk for stroke or heart attack.  Yes, he needed to quit smoking for long term health, but for the short run he needed that while the other issues were addressed.

If she would ask that question, she would be able to explain that yanking the nail out will solve "a" problem, but won't solve "the" problem.  When someone is in pain, they have trouble seeing past that.  I was once in the hospital, barely able to move several days.  I developed a muscle spasm in my back; certainly one of the most painful experiences of my life.  All I could do was cry out in pain and frustration.  The doctor prescribed a strong narcotic pain killer.  They told me it would be 20 minutes before it took affect.  Yet, as soon as they administered the shot, I was able to calmly wait for relief.  The pain did not diminish at all with the shot; I just had full confidence that it was under control, so I was able to relax and wait.

In a marriage, he needs to acknowledge her pain, she needs to acknowledge that he can formulate solutions, they both need to acknowledge that there are always deeper issues and they can only work on them together.  The need to develop trust; an ever widening and deepening arena of trust.  I would further suggest that marriage is simply the most intense and close relationship.  In point of fact, however, we have many relationships and many issues.  In each one, we sometimes have the nail in our head and need to be heard, and we sometimes see the solution and need to gain trust to implement it.  Without trust, we have strife; with trust we can solve and/or endure anything.

I lied.  Marriage is not the most intense and close relationship we have.  It is close and intense.  And we are so different!  Why would the Creator put us in this position?  Why don't we just marry our siblings, with whom we have a shared experience during our formative years?  Why don't we at least marry the same sex?  At least then we would know how to understand the other.  At least then we wouldn't be struggling with different such totally opposite ways of viewing the world.

That, as they say, is precisely the point.  There is no greater gap than between the Creator and the created.  How can they possibly have a relationship?  Yet, that is precisely the reason for our sojourn in this world; to build our closest, most intense, and eternal relationship; the relationship with our Creator.  HaShem specifically designed our relationships -- and marriage in particular -- to put us in a position that requires constant hard work to change our point of view.  Why?  So we understand what it means to need to build trust.  Then we understand better what HaShem wants from us.

HaShem could have told Avraham Avinu that he only wanted him to bring Yitzchak up, but not to actually offer him as an elevation offering.  HaShem could have told Moshe to be more specific about how long he would be on the mountain, thus avoiding the six hours of confusion that lead to the tragedy of the sin of the golden calf.  HaShem could have told Klal Yisrael that they were three days from water, thus avoiding the complaints that lead to the waters of strife.

But, really and truly... it's not about the nail; it's about trust.


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