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Jan 3, 2012

Outcome Based Emunah

People are often preoccupied with outcomes. For many reasons, in many ways, this makes complete sense. The outcome often has a direct impact on me as an individual. For things like results of test scores or licensing/board exams and whether I get hired, the bottom line really does make a difference in my life.

But what about when things don't necessarily go the way we want them to? I've been hearing more and more (see here and here) a logic that examines outcomes as a reason for Emunah. Here's the train of thought: the way things went (though it wasn't what I'd wanted) would have been disastrous if I had been involved and things went forward (like seeing someone you seriously dated end up divorced). So I should trust that's always the case (when things don't go my way).

What's this obsession with other outcomes? Why do negative outcomes provide a singular proof that I should trust all is for the best when things do not go my way? (And what does that say about the other people who deal with those outcomes?)

There are so many stories that focus on what happened after the supposed disaster, seeing the consequences as the focal point of why we should believe it's all for the best. Such an Emunah is based on hind-sight bias. Only after-the-fact does someone see or have relief. A person in the throes of turmoil often cannot listen to hindsight bias, and such a basis for Emunah will tell them that they must simply "wait and you will see." (Not to mention that someone else having a "happily ever after" would completely shatter that perspective.)

This is not the version of Emunah I grew up with. Other outcomes are irrelevant to my experience; the degree to which they give me relief is emotional (a "that was close, thanks you God for getting me out of that one!" feeling). But my Emunah isn't an emotionally driven belief. Emunah isn't about saying that everything God sends my way is preventing greater calamity or more pain and therefore believing that whatever happens is for the best. I don't need to know all the outcomes of the people, events or opportunities I missed in order to believe in my own challenges as having purpose. 

I believe in the richness of experience. Especially challenging experiences. I believe in all challenges as opportunity. Experiences are given to us as opportunities for personal growth and to connection with Hashem. Whether they are calamities or wonderful experiences, every moment presents the potential to learn, to bring The Almighty into my life and to make something greater of myself and my connection with Him.

Emunah really comes down to that connection and a willingness to accept that I neither know exactly what's best nor do I control most of what occurs to me; it's a dedication to making the most of each experience, to seize the chance and build something more -for myself and with Hashem. Emunah is always looking up at Hashem and inward to myself, not around at what happens afterwards or who is dealing with the mess. Focusing on what is always going on with others and being so concerned with the outcomes (for example, with the people I've dated that haven't worked out) is to completely miss the mark on what I really should be doing -digging deep into myself and strengthening my relationship with The Almighty.

1 comment:

  1. the truth is that though it is important to have something to strive for it really is all about the journey. well said