You smell that?
The biggest turnoff is when someone reprimands us poorly. We’re mostly fine with admitting that we were wrong but ‘who are they to tell us off’? And even if they rightfully are our authoritative figure, it’s so difficult to give proper rebuke that we’re usually left feeling resentful and uneasy. (In fact, I find it difficult to properly describe the tragic consequences over the years resulting from parents and educators improperly rebuking their children and students).
In Tinyana 8 Rebbe Nachman describes what’s really going on when we’re ‘lectured’ unsatisfactorily.
“When the rebuker isn’t appropriate to admonish, not only isn’t his criticism effective but it actually causes the soul that hears it to emit a bad odor, because through his words he awakens the unpleasant smell of the wrongful acts and bad qualities of the person being criticized. Just like when something smelly is lying on the ground, if you don’t move it, then you don’t really smell anything. But once you move it, you greatly rouse its stench”.
When a Jewish soul emits a bad odor it gets weaker and suspends the flow to all the worlds that are dependent on that soul. Because the soul mainly gets its nourishment from the sense of smell.
But when the rebuker is befitting to admonish his listener, with his voice he adds a beautiful smell to the listener’s soul and strengthens the latter’s soul to come back to God.
What’s going on here? To be honest I’m not quite sure how to understand the inner-workings of our souls and their sustenance from holy smells, but there’s something very valuable to learn from this lesson: We need one another and we’re vital for each other’s success. Nobody likes to be put in their place. We need to be extremely careful who we criticize and how we do it, if it can even be done effectively nowadays. Never the less we are capable of working together. That’s a great privilege and responsibility! We can build each other up (or God forbid the opposite) more than we believe. Let’s pray that we use these opportunities wisely and make a positive difference in the lives of those we know.