• Shterna Ginsberg


Updated: Aug 31, 2021

Today I spoke with Etty about the work she did to connect with her G-dly Self and about the impact her work has had on her marriage. Our conversation gave me new awareness about how a strengthened connection with our G-dly Self is the key to meaningful relationships.

Etty sees herself as someone who is kind and fun; she is a caring, invested mother and a great friend.

For years, when her husband Shaya came home from work radiating with stress, she didn’t greet him warmly. Why? Because she knew that she wouldn’t get a warm response and she didn’t want to put herself out for being hurt by that.

Sounds familiar?

When Etty started coming to our Connections workshops, she learned to act on her G-dly Self. In her effort to be true to her G-dly Self at all times, she looked at herself one day and said, “Etty Greenberg is a woman who extends warm greetings to every person who walks through her door. Everyone includes her husband Shaya. Period, end of story.”

That evening Shaya came home a bit later than he usually did, looking a bit more harried and stressed than he usually did… And as soon as he walked through the door, Etty instinctively withdrew into herself with more sourness than she usually felt.

But then she remembered her commitment to extend warm greetings to everyone who walks through her door. And so she extended warm greetings to Shaya. An awesome moment of choice.

No sparks started to fly through the air. There was no magic. Indeed, Shaya barely responded to Etty’s greeting.

But for that evening, Etty wasn’t focused on his response. Her attention was focused on herself: Her worthiness, her personality, her choices. Etty felt good about the person she was choosing to be!

It is now two years since that first moment in which Etty chose to stay true to her G-dly Self regardless of her husband’s mood or behavior. Since then, Etty has created these small (but awesome!) moments of choice many times. The moments have stretched into hours and days. And the goodness that at first was but a delicate seed in her heart, is now thriving. It wraps around her and Shaya, filling their lives with flowering love.

What has Etty learned? She said, “In retrospect, my anticipation of Shaya’s non-responsiveness to me, caused me to withdraw into myself, which he interpreted as not being interested in him, which caused him to remain silent throughout the evening, which caused me to feel like I could explode from the stress…”

Do you see the pattern?

Greeting our husbands warmly is always a good idea. But that’s not the point of Etty’s story.

The point is: Who are you? What kind of person are you? Decide who you are. Decide what qualities you want to express and then be that person. Be true to who you are, regardless of who other people are. Don’t hold back your way of being. Don’t change who you are based on what you think someone else might be thinking, or what you think someone else might say.

Each of us can do what is right and generate approval of ourselves from within our own selves.

When our marriage is not in good shape, or when there’s tension in a relationship with one of our children or someone important to us, then it can feel awkward to reach out with acts of kindness. It takes a ton of strength to be the person we want to be when we might not get the response that we want to have.

We can take that strength from Etty’s story.

We can take that strength when we realize that each of us is writing our own story.

Common wisdom advises: Be kind to others so that others will be kind to you! Be a friend so that you’ll have a friend. Share love so that you’ll get love in return.

But many people have been hurt by trying that formula.

In the G-d-centered mindset, there’s a whole different reason to do what we do. We say:

Be kind because you’re G-dly.

Be strong because you’re G-dly.

Be a friend because you’re G-dly.

Take care of yourself because you’re G-dly.

Share love because you’re G-dly.

When we give because we want to please others and get something from them in return, we inevitably feel drained and resentful.

When we give because we want to share our G-dly light, we feel alive and strengthened.

Can you relate to Etty’s experience?

What are the three qualities that you want to define yourself by?

What might happen if you show up with those qualities, regardless of how the people around you respond to you?

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