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Friendship: Building Blocks of Social Responsibility

Yael Dorfman and Bashi Levine, LPC, ACT

Social responsibility is the idea that each of us has a moral obligation to act for the benefit of society (particularly Klal Yisrael) at large.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

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L earning good behavior from… birds? You’re kidding, right? That’s not something we’re usually told to do. But one bird makes its way into our social consciousness, and that is the stork, the “chasidah.” Her name denotes kindness (chesed) and indeed she is kind… to her own kind. She will share fish and be generous but only with other storks. As a result, she is considered to have bad character, and the Torah states that she is not a kosher animal. We can’t eat her because we don’t want to internalize those characteristics. This gives us a window into how the Torah defines real, true, evenhanded, loving chesed. What we call social responsibility.

Social responsibility is the idea that each of us has a moral obligation to act for the benefit of society (particularly Klal Yisrael) at large. In other words, social responsibility is the duty that each person has to create balance, happiness, and harmony among people in this world. Of course, we are naturally drawn to certain friends; those who are more similar to us, and those who interest us the most. But social responsibility dictates that we include everyone in our circle of kindness. And each of us can be a leader and grow closer and closer toward this very large and elevated goal.

Building Blocks of Social Responsibility

Here are some tools to ready yourselves to connect with others and accept the challenge to grow.

1. Consider Self-Image vs. External Image. The first building block in the effort to include everyone in your circle of kindness is answering to your inner voice and not to others’ expectations. If you tune in to what your inner sense of fairness tells you, and stop thinking about how it will appear to onlookers, it’s easier to direct yourself to connection with others. Respecting your self-image and downplaying the approval of others is mature and useful. Nechama was sitting in the “circle of seven” that ate lunch together daily. At the edge of her vision she noticed that Sara was hovering nearby with her lunch in hand. It was so simple to turn a bit and not make eye contact, but she felt a jumpy feeling inside that told her to be kind. She would have to answer to that “inner jolt” if she ignored Sara. With a conscious decision not to ask anyone, but to do what felt right, she moved a drop to the left and opened the circle so Sara could join and sit down.

2. Focus on The Powerful Outcomes. Social responsibility becomes easier when you focus on its impact. Simply put, your kindness can make a BIG difference in someone’s life. So many friends are unsure of themselves and self-conscious. Part of being a teen is having the feeling that one is constantly being judged by an imaginary audience, evaluating minute-to-minute whether one is “socially on or socially off.” When you purposely look for a chance to spread sweetness, it can be just the thing to make someone feel validated and wanted. Chaya Leah was new to the class and was boarding from out-of-state. Her heart was warmed one weekend when Shari thought to include her in her family’s Sunday plans. She texted her mother afterward in three upbeat words “best day ever!” (Excerpted from Teen Pages, Issue 671)

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