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Friendship: Inner Circle, Inner Self

Devora Zheutlin, MA, CAS

Just the advantage of knowing who you really are helps you seek compatible friends. You are more likely to gravitate to similar people

Monday, April 09, 2018

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I nner Circle, Inner Self: Find out Who You Are and Who You Can Become

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. 

Helen Keller 

Suri sat in class with her teacher’s question echoing in her ears. Mrs. Stern had asked, “Who are you?” and Suri wanted to be able to answer in a real and thoughtful way. Who was she really, in her own fullest sense, and not in comparison with others?

Who am I? This question is sometimes so unnerving that we push it away, keeping ourselves busy and distracted. But although the question makes us uncomfortable, we will be better friends, better listeners, and certainly better people if we take the time to ask and answer it honestly.

In and Out of the Circle

Rabbi Akiva Tatz, a brilliant writer and lecturer, suggests the following exercise. Draw a big circle on a paper. Inside the circle write all the facets of your personality. Any word that describes you is in. Are you compassionate, inviting others to share burdens with you? Are you organized and clear-thinking, allowing you to take tough problems and break them down effectively? Are you flighty and rushed, hurrying through tasks and events without thinking deeply? What are your special skills? Who do you enjoy speaking with? What is “your style”? Then, outside the circle, detail all the things that you are not. These include traits you are glad you don’t have as well as ones that you wish you had. Do you prefer to be alone, or do you hate being alone? Do you care about fashion or are you disinterested in externals? 

When this circle exercise is complete, pay attention to what’s inside the circle. Whatever traits and accomplishments are in it are your tools with which to grow. Maximize them! Work them hard! Look for chances to use those middos within the circle as your vehicle for growth.

Nechama is a self-described bookworm, preferring a good book on a couch to any other form of entertainment. She wants to use this strength as a tool. With a little reflection she sees that her patience as a reader enables her to reach others whose lives are quiet and perhaps lonely. She can relate to elderly shut-ins and imagine the detachment from society that they might feel. With her focus on using that as a tool, she starts a mini organization with five fellow classmates who read to the elderly in a local nursing home on long Shabbos afternoons.

This circle exercise will benefit your friendships as well. Just the advantage of knowing who you really are helps you seek compatible friends. You are more likely to gravitate to similar people and form deep relationships with them. For example, a person who includes the traits “relaxed and easygoing” in her inner circle will not pursue friendships with loud and aggressive girls. She knows herself too well for that. (Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 704)

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