It amazes me how so few people have real friendships in their lives. They think they have friends because they walk beside one another on the golf course. They assume they are friends because they spend hours in proximity with one another at work. Or they describe one another as friends because they agree on virtually everything, never have a disagreement, never get into a fight. This seems to be the prevailing definition of real friendships as well as ideal marriages. Friends, spouses and soul mates should really never fight. Soul mates nurture, comfort and take care of one another. It is beautiful, it is harmonious, and the problem is that this is not real – it does not exist!

Ease, harmony, bliss and agreement is not what should define authentic friendship, marriage and certainly not what defines soul mates. Real relationships require discussion, disagreement, challenge, and yes, from time to time, even a healthy fight.

There is a principle in Judaism called “chevruta.” Chevruta, literally friendship, is how Jews traditionally approach study of Torah. We rarely study it alone, rarely study it in silence and rarely study it agreeing every step of the way. A healthy chevruta is one built upon listening and comfort as well as challenge. Harmony has its place. Disagreement and yes, sometimes, a good verbal fight has its place too.

When Adam was lonely in the Garden God didn’t only give him a partner to nurture him, hold his hand and say “yes dear” whenever he made a request. Rather, he equally gave him a friend to critique him, challenge him, and yes, let him have it, from time to time. Eve knew how to comfort Adam and equally knew how to kick him in the tuchus which ultimately made him into a better man.

It’s much easier to surround yourself with people who agree with you, “yes men and women.” This doesn’t mean they are good for you and probably not your soul mate if all they say is “yes.” Real friends, real partners, real spouses say “no” as well as “yes.” They challenge you as much as comfort you. Certainly there should be peace, harmony and bliss. There should also, however, from time to time be debate, disagreement, and a good old fashioned, respectful fight.

Rabbi B
Baruch HaLevi

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