Dear Readers,

A woman approached me after a recent lecture to ask advice about a painful dilemma.

She had been married and had a son before her marriage dissolved. After some time, she met someone else, and they eventually married. He adopted her son like his own, and they had a beautiful relationship. For years, she and her husband tried to have a child together, but to no avail. Facing secondary fertility issues and being already in her 40s, she feared that another child would not be on her future horizon.

She asked if she should convince her husband to divorce her so that he could remarry and have his own family. Was she being fair to him, she tearfully probed, keeping him married to a woman who could not provide him with the love and joy of his own offspring?

I asked her more about her relationship. She reassured me that it was good, and that her husband loved her son. I asked her what her husband thought of this plan. She said that he was opposed to it, but that she felt she wasn’t being “fair” to him. She cried, saying she was so overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy, and asked if this would be the “right” thing to do.

We discussed how she wanted so badly to bring another child into this world to create more love in her home, but that to do so she was willing to destroy the beautiful love that already existed. We also spoke about ways to increase love, by sharing our homes and hearts with others. We spoke about different ways of “fathering” children, and teaching or mentoring others who may be less fortunate.

And then we spoke about guilt and feelings of inadequacy, and how these are usually not positive or productive emotions, but ones that we need to eradicate entirely.

Our discussion made me think of how many times guilt and feelings of not being “good enough” can make us act destructively, and may even convince us that we are doing the “right” thing by following an erroneous direction. We may be training to learn a new skill or a new career, and we’re ready to give it all up because of our own harsh self-judgements. A friend or acquaintance may be asking us advice, but in our “humility,” we feel inadequate to share our wisdom or life experiences. In our religious or spiritual lives, we might feel such profound feelings of guilt in our relationship with G‑d that we wonder whether it’s even worth trying. But like this husband, G‑d desires our relationship, no matter how unworthy we feel.

Let’s destroy these feelings of guilt and inadequacy. They’re not positive; they’re destructive. They make us give up on the people and experiences we love most. And they make us give up on ourselves by not allowing us to accept ourselves for who we are—a beautiful soul we can work on to become even greater.

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW