People naturally have a tendency to want to fit in and be accepted. As social animals, we crave recognition and status. But this often comes at a price. We may perceive the need to compromise on our moral principles, and to adapt to the prevailing norms as the price we must pay for acceptance. This would be a mistake. Remaining true to self has to be the highest priority. Although it may be hard, in the long run, people will actually respect you for adhering to your principles.
Rigidity and inflexibility on the other hand, can also be its own worst enemy. Stubbornness – an inability to hear the perspective of another – is a serious human failing.
Judaism teaches us that the ‘golden mean’, Maimonides’ famed middle way, is the aim and goal. This is sometimes misunderstood to mean that one needs to compromise on our standards. Nothing could be further from the truth. Maimonides’ own life is perhaps the best example of this. Fiercely loyal as a personal physician to his monarch, his life was a testament to his ability to interact with others who had different world views in a positive manner, creating an enormous Kiddush Hashem in the process, precisely through not diluting his views or practice one iota.
At the same time, there is a ‘time to discard’. There are occasions where the need to hear and empathise with the voice and view of another is crucial. But only through the prism of Torah, and with appropriate guidance, can one determine the correct course of action. It takes wisdom and experience to know how and when to exercise flexibility.
Read more sections from JABE's 2010 Yom Kippur leaflet: