Self-assessment can be a tricky exercise.
On the one hand, we need to be fearlessly honest. Deflecting blame and finger-pointing may be instinctive (who likes to shoulder blame?) but it doesn’t get us anywhere.
I need to face my own inadequacies and mistakes, learn from them, and evolve into a better person.
But what about the flip side? What if I’m so bent on being ‘honest’ that I consistently find fault in my own actions? What if I find myself claiming too much ‘credit’ for collective miscalculations and blunders? What if I start defining myself by my own ‘downside’?
In a strange way, being hard on yourself can make you feel good. You can get a virtue-thrill from being so ‘honest’, even when you’re not being accurate.
But that’s not the authentic – truly honest – path. An honest self-assessment will have my rising above my emotional tendencies – neither ducking blame nor grabbing it - to assess myself objectively (as objective as one can be about oneself). If I try to stand apart from my emotions, and view myself dispassionately, I’ll probably find a ‘mixed bag’ personality; there will be elements which I want to fix, and other elements which I need to continue exercising and expanding.
I assume that I’ll find both of those elements because I’m human, and we’re all a ‘mixed bag’.
I’m describing a level of internal freedom, the freedom to honestly assess oneself, without being sidetracked by one’s emotions.
And now is an especially pertinent time to focus on internal freedom, because it’s the Passover season.
Passover isn’t only about our past.
Our ancestors’ story needs to be our story. So Passover is a time of Freedom for the human spirit, a season in which we can all transcend our individual ‘Egypts’.
Life is full of ‘Egypts’ i.e. forces which constrict us, impeding our souls’ healthy expression.
These ‘Egypts’ are often internal and self-imposed; and they take many forms: Fears, Anxieties, Perceptions, etc.
A person’s self-image can be an ‘Egypt’, since a counter-productive self-perception can really get in the way of a meaningful life.
Where can we turn for our personal liberation?
Why Matzah? Matzah is made of flour and water, but it must be prepared and baked quickly, before it can rise. Once it rises, it becomes ‘Chametz, (dough that has risen/’leavened’) and unfit for Passover.
So Matzah is the simple flat bread, while Chametz is ‘bloated’. Matzah is humility, the surrender to honesty; Chametz is undisciplined emotional expansion and impulse.
Passover, and the Matzah, want to teach us an important lesson in personal freedom: Don’t let your impulses, even your ‘virtuous’, high-minded ones, run the show.
With humility, you should find the freedom to see – and like - yourself honestly.
Another reason for Passover joy.