We become like our surroundings. It’s naive and arrogant to think otherwise.  No matter how strong you might be, if you hang around a certain type of environment for long enough, sooner or later, like a chameleon, you will absorb the energy, take on the qualities and eventually begin to change your colors and blend in.

I remember listening to an interview with the actor Ralph Fiennes after he had filmed the movie Schindler’s List.  In it he described the transformation he felt himself undergo after weeks and months of re-enacting the life and times of the Holocaust and the evils he portrayed as a Nazi commandant.  No matter how hard he tried, in spite of it merely being pretend, he found himself growing distant and angrier no matter how hard he tried to fend it off.

Every morning we Jews read the paragraph, “Keep broken (angry, vindictive, mean-spirited) people from me.”  We chant this not that we should shut the world out but that we should remember just how vulnerable we are to outside influences and surroundings. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us honest, real and human.  No matter who we are, no matter how hard we try, to various degrees we become like our surroundings.  To think otherwise is arrogant – to overestimate our power.  To not realize this is a recipe for disaster as we will always underestimate the negative, destructive, even evil influences which abound.

So choose your surroundings consciously, choose them wisely and remember the words of the W. Clement Stone, “You are a product of your environment.  So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective.  Analyze your life in terms of its environment.  Are the things around you helping you toward success – or are they holding you back?”

Shalom,

Rabbi B

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