Little did I know that my desire to cultivate creativity in my children would turn me into a porter. One of them needs help transporting film equipment. Another needs help transporting musical equipment. One day it struck me: Carrying a heavy weight for others makes it heavy for us but also a little lighter for them. Why should they have to carry it alone?
An important aspect of love is expressed in Jewish thought as noseh be’ol (helping the other carry a heavy weight). Loving-kindness makes people bring over meals when tragedy strikes and it also makes people dance like wild at weddings. Both are occasions marked by strong emotions. Whether it feels good or bad, both are times when people feel very alone unless they have others to share the experience with them. As we know from surveys listing types of stressors in one’s life, emotions are weighty. Just as in lifting physical objects, the same rule applies to emotional support: Why should they have to carry it alone?
This same concept of carrying a weight is articulated again in Jewish thought in a completely different context – savlanut (tolerance). Embedded within the root of the word for tolerance is sabal (a porter), and the word sevel (suffering). It’s not easy to carry a weight. It’s easier to put it down. This is why putting up with all kinds of things we don’t like in other people is called savlanut. We have to suffer with it, and it feels like a heavy weight to carry. But since people are different and have different ways of doing things and have different shortcomings and they can even do things that are wrong and also hurt us sometimes, we have no choice but to carry the weight, i.e. keep on being a friend in spite of it. Unless, of course we reject the person, meaning we put the weight down.
And I realized that this is not just about agreeing to suffer. When we carry the weight of someone’s baggage of negative stuff it’s a little bit like carrying the weight of their emotional baggage. I can be sure this bad habit is heavy for him and is hurting him. It weighs him down! And if I can manage, instead of rejecting him to say “I’ll help you carry this” I will surely make it lighter for him. He won’t need to carry it around any more.
Carrying tolerance is really an extension of carrying love. When I listen it takes away your alone-ness and charges the emotions with positive energy. Similarly when I accept you as a package deal together with all of your flaws and see that you are much more than this, those same flaws will become lighter for you, take away your alone-ness and help you access your better side, your “much more-ness.”
So in answer to one person’s question, “When can I put it down?” I would say “As soon as you start to carry it.”