Refraining from Evil

"We tend to think that if we resist doing something, then we have not really 'done anything.' Just ask the person in recovery who gets through a day without taking a drink whether or not that is an accomplishment. The truth is, way more than half the commandments are 'Thou shalt nots.' In other words, Jewish tradition understands that the urge to do negative things, to take advantage of and harm others, in both big and small ways, is real, existing inside each and every one of us. In fact, if it were not real, there would be no need to create these rules. I would never have to say to my eldest, 'Ari, stop annoying your brother,' if Ari did not do that as part of his daily regimen in life. The human capacity to do evil, even in people who are basically good, is ever-present, as psychological experiments and history have taught us. To resist this urge is also a spiritual act. While it may not add to the goodness in the world, it diminishes the evil; on balance, then, goodness is enhanced. So the next time you want to share some juicy gossip but stop yourself because you realize the person really doesn't need to hear it, know that you have made the world a better place.

"It takes a lot of goodness just to maintain the status quo. One act of violence or evil can undermine so much goodness. Sometimes it feels like all the good deeds we do are just fingers and toes in the dike, stopping the leaks from becoming a flood threatening to overcome and wipe us all out. Despite our best efforts, it seems we make no progress on making the world the better place it is supposed to be. But without each of those fingers and toes, the world would be even worse. Every time we resist the urge to hurt another human being, or an animal, or, our planet, we have patched another hole. And that is good."