The False Faith which claims that we are not good
By Ron Weber
Translated by Moshe Neveloff
Edited by Gershon Weissman
If you’ll ask a man in the street if he thinks he’s good- the automatic answer will usually be: “Of course I’m good.” A deeper examination inside ourselves will reveal that we have a part of us which believes that we really are not good.
What does it mean “not good”? This sounds strange and exaggerated.
Do I feel that I’m a good person and only want goodness, or are there places where I have difficult beliefs about myself? For example, that I’m selfish, or that I don’t care about others; I disappoint other people all the time, I don’t have luck, I don’t have any chance of succeeding, that I’m a failure, that I don’t really have talents, that I’m weak. If people would know who I truly am and how I feel, they would not want to have a connection with me. That I’m not. Simply not…
Most of the time we are not aware of these feelings and thoughts, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist inside of us.
Because even if a person will say that everything’s okay and that he loves himself and feels connected to himself, if he actually believes in the hidden depths of his heart that he’s not good, that he’s disappointing, that he could have been different, etc.- his behavior will reflect his belief. Our beliefs shape our behavior and how we relate to ourselves and those around us.
A frustrating result of this is that a person who finds in himself places where he feels he lacks value, lacks connection or love- he looks around him at other people and thinks that everything is okay with them, and that only he feels this way. This only strengthens the negative feeling inside and it’s not true. His main problem is despair. We all have challenges we are dealing with. It’s true, sometimes something which seems to you like a mountain looks like a mouse to someone else, but every one of us has difficulties and wounds which we are carrying with us.
The problem is, as mentioned above, the negative beliefs which control our lives. There’s a joke which tells of three people- an Israeli intelligence agent, a K.G.B. agent and a C.I.A. agent who competed between themselves who could catch the rabbit in the forest the fastest. The C.I.A. agent came out with the rabbit after five minutes, the K.G.B. agent after 15 minutes and the Israeli agent didn’t come out of the forest. The two worried friends entered the forest again in order to search for their Israeli friend. They found him in a clearing in the forest. In front of him was a scared, trapped lion and the Israeli agent was screaming at him: Admit that you are a rabbit! Admit that you are a rabbit!
It sounds like an exaggeration, but that’s what happens when we become convinced at a young age that who we are is not good enough. That we need to be someone else, something else. That we need to be a rabbit instead of a lion. After we’re convinced of the bad and the negative… we try to cover it our whole lives with shining cellophane wrappings and show that everything is okay… and then, even when we tell ourselves that we are in a really good state, that we love and appreciate ourselves, a deeper check will reveal that deep down in our hearts we don’t believe that we are good.
There are several core reasons for this gap, and one of them is rooted in our childhood. When parents and teachers tell a child that he is a bad child, he internalizes this. We all know well expressions like “you’re lazy”, “you’re selfish”, and “you’re annoying”. Sayings like these create in the child a self-perception that he is not good. It’s understood that the parents intention is to say that the behavior of the child was bad, however as time goes by the child simply absorbs this poisonous idea deep inside himself. Rigid education leads to this outlook even if they don’t tell the child these words explicitly.
Also lax or too permissive education can cause the child to believe that he is not good: ‘behold if I was good, at least they would care about me. At least someone would pay attention to me. It seems that I’m not important, not interesting and not good, and therefore nobody takes interest in me and are not firm with me.’
There are additional reasons for the basic internal faith that we are not good enough, and they are different from person to person. The basic point shared by all, for most of us, is that sometimes this belief is hidden, and at other times it comes to the surface and overwhelms us. During the times when this belief is strong- we feel helpless and lack will.
Also the conditions of life can strengthen in a person this false belief that he is not good. When a person looks at his life in its present state, and it’s not always what he hoped it would be, he feels like a failure. He feels that he’s not good. He identifies with the external situation and decides that he’s not good.
“And the main principle which is understood from his words is that a person needs to have faith in himself, that he too is beloved in the eyes of God. Because according to the greatness of God’s good, he is also great and important in the eyes of God. And it has already been explained several times that it is not the attribute of humility to think in a small way, God forbid, and we need to plead a lot to God to merit the true paths of humility.”
Do you believe that you are not good?
Search for situations in your life where you believe, or you believed in the past, that you are simply not good. Something which happened in the past few years or in your memories from an earlier time, times when you simply felt unworthy in general or situations where you felt like a failure. Sometimes this is connected to guilty feelings which come to the surface and overwhelm you.
What is the source of the feeling that you are not good?
A deeper examination will reveal that many times we are mistaken, and in the depth of our hearts we believe that we are not good.
 Rebbe Nachman’s Wisdom, Paragraph 140