Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Miserliness and Speaking Badly about Others by Allan Katz

Allan Katz    James Ferrel from  The Arbinger institute ,in his highly recommended TedX Talk – Resolving the Heart of Conflict  –and  Article  explains why we value problems above solutions, conflict above peace, reconciliation and  cooperation, and how to remedy the situation.

In a nutshell – James Ferrel explains that when we objectify people, or we don't share our resources with them - for example by not opening up our homes or our hearts to them , we need to justify our actions and  view of these people as being undeserving.This triggers our looking for plenty of negativity about them and sharing it with others. This inner need for justification is so strong that it overrides the need for peace and better interpersonal relationships.

In the talk he claims that we actually value problems, mistreatment, trouble, and conflict. He explains that according to Martin Buber, we don't have problems with people whom we count or identify with. We see their humanity and that they  - 'are made in God's image'. The others who don't count in our eyes are viewed as objects. It is easier to view or treat people badly if you ' objectify ' them. But objectifying people comes with a consequence – a deep inner need to justify that view. So the heart sees advantage in trouble and conflict, it provides the proof and justification that we are looking for. People then begin to value problems above solutions, conflict above peace and cooperation.

The way out of this trap is to see the humanity of others -and that they are made in God's image. In an article – James Ferrel writes about company executives, employees and representatives of the unions who spent some time in a holiday resort trying to see how they could cooperate much more efficiently. At the end of the 3 days, they attempted to resolve disputes which had been around for more than a year and that were scheduled for arbitration. 'They resolved the disputes in forty minutes , because – during the first 2 days together they solved the heart of the conflict that had been dividing them, which was the mutual objectification and blame for each other. Until they saw their conflict partners as people, with hopes, dreams, cares and fears as real as their own, they needed justification more than they needed resolution and were both unwilling and unable to find creative, mutually beneficial possibilities. They found too much advantage in problems to be able to find lasting solutions.' – James Ferrel. [...]


  1. Judaism formalizes this approach. The Ramchal states as a principle that Chazal always interpret any Scriptural statement said of a wicked person negatively, and any neutral Scriptural statement said of a righteous person positively. This is a key to understanding many Chazals. The same concept applies in halacha where we judge a righteous or average person favorably and a wicked person negatively. Regarding non-Jews, the Baal Hatanya lays down a kabala based rule that everything they do, even good things, are motivated by the sitra achra and intrinsically evil - chesed le'umim chatas. Perhaps other sources are less extreme.

  2. This is the same idea as the lashon hara/dan l'kaf zechus choice; and ayin tova/ayin hara. Lashon hara is superficially defined as "gossip", but it's the manifestation of engaging the world negatively and judgmentally. Similarly, being dan l'kaf zechus is defined in vertlach as "looking for some random implausible scenario in which bad behavior would be justified"; but a more mature understanding of it is understanding the internal world of the people whose behavior we might be critical of.
    Ayin Hara is the same as Lashon Hara, except that it's not verbalized. It is most relevant when you are looking at some benefit or possession that someone else has. A person who engages the world negatively and judgmentally tends to experience jealousy and resentment when someone else has something good. A person who engages the world positively tends to experience vicarious pleasure when other people have something, regardless of whether their benefit is deserved or justified. That is why Ayin Tova is sometimes synonymous with generosity.

  3. No offense intended, but who is Allan Katz? My Google search only found a Broadway producer.



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