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I can't stand my mother-in-law! What's your advice?!

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


Library » Jewish Identity » Love thy Neighbor | Subscribe | What is RSS?


I don’t understand the question.

Just kidding!

But seriously, can you imagine a world in which everyone was absolutely the same? I mean, carbon copy, cookie-cutter clones? If we were all homogeneous, life would be monotonous. And that would be garlaphamous.

The Torah is our guide to life. The Torah tells us how to deal with life as we know it—with liars, cheaters, stupid people and other aggravations. In dealing with liars and cheaters, Leviticus 18:19 states clearly: don’t take revenge. And in Ethics of our Fathers (1:18), the great Talmudic sage Hillel likewise states: “Be of the sons of Aaron—love peace and pursue peace, love people and bring them close to Torah.” And so on with all other human pestkind.

Now, on to your real question: “But why? Why do we have to be nice to stupid people? They’re so annoying!” And here’s your answer: Because G-d likes magic shows.

Every time you encounter a stupid person, and resist the urge to give him or her a mouthful, you change a little bit inside. And that’s magic. That’s what G-d wants. G-d wants us to change. G-d wants us to grow. G-d wants that magic. If there were no stupid people, we’d have no opportunity to grow. There would be nothing to challenge our natural tendencies.

Of course, if a stupid person is just too much for you, rather than bash them, just avoid them. But whenever they cross your path, do what G-d wants of you. Yes, I know it’s gonna be hard. Real hard. But you don’t have to become a Tzadik (perfect individual) overnight. It’s progress, not perfection. Take it a little bit at a time. Grow gradually.

But here’s where the real magic kicks in. Give yourself a set time in which to act toward stupid people the same way you would to normal people. Now just watch—by time’s end, they won’t be so stupid anymore. Now, who really changed? Them... or you?

TAGS: hate


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"Magic Show"

Posted by: Anonymous, Raleigh, NC, USA on Oct 31, 2005

I love the concept of a "magic show." This describes an experience I am having. I was irritated by a coworker's "stupidity." My opening for change came when she acted compassionately toward me during a stressful time at work. I then realized that her intelligence level is not her fault, but that her choice to be compassionate is a Truly Good Thing. In the last four months, my appreciation of her good qualities has grown to the point that I am much more tolerant of the times she does annoy me. I no longer avoid conversation with her, and our work relationship has transformed from a daily irritation to be minimized into an enjoyable relationship which I am pleased to be part of. I have "proof" now that focusing on someone's positive qualities and resisting the urge to act dismissively can produce a real, qualitative change in my experience. This feels so good on a personal, selfish level that I hope it also counts as doing Hashem's will!


Posted by: Anonymous, San Diego, CA on Dec 29, 2006

So called "Stupid" people are a relief. You don't have to play mental gymnastics with them. You simply have a conversation. Even if they are argumentative because they've been treated like they're stupid. It's pretty easy to calm them down when you agree with their feeling they've been abused, because they have! I like "stupid" people. Often they have an insight into something remarkable. Insight which has floored me, and filled me with enlightenment.

I find that if you treat everybody the same, you generally do all right.

Against the marriage

Posted by: Anonymous, Ann Arbor, Mi, 48105 on Dec 31, 2006

These comments are referring to "stupid people", but I do not think intelligence is the issue.

After my parents were married, my mothers' mother-in-law (my fathers' mother) would write my father and tell him to divorce my mother. This went on for sometime (my mother managed to see some of the letters, which caused her great pain). I really do not think my parents’ marriage was accepted by my fathers' mother before the birth of their second child (a boy). Because of what my grandmother did our views of her were tainted ands we never got to really know her/ did not get to spend much time with her.

By the way, my parents have three children and have been married over 40 years to date.

So, what would you have advised my mother to have done based on the above?

Editor's Comment

1) I don't think the author is referring to "stupidity" in the dictionary definition of unintelligent. He is referring to annoying people that get on your nerves and it isn't easy to reason with them. 2) In general, it isn't emotionally healthy to unnecessarily concern yourself with the relationship between your mother and grandmother. 3) Dealing with threatening family members should be done with utmost sensitivity. Clear communication is always the best route provided it is done in a way that does not attack or offend the other family member. My suggestion would be to express her feelings honestly (not in an accusing way). One can only do their best to help the situation and must realize that some things are out of their control. You can only make suggestions; you cannot make up people's minds for them.


Mitzvot » Love thy Neighbor

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Brother of Moses. First High Priest of Israel and progenitor of all Kohanim (priests) until this very day. Died in the year 1272 b.c.e.
The third of the Five Books of Moses. This book deals with the service (of the Levite Tribe) in the Tabernacle, and contains many of the 613 commandments.
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzadikim). A saint, or righteous person.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.