My neighbor across the street recently had a series of floods in her basement due to faulty piping. Dirty water would rise into the playroom and she would have to clean it up immediately so that it did not reach the other rooms of the house. Numerous plumbers were brought in, until finally the source of the problem was located and the problem fixed.

Her carpets had been ruined, and her basement still reeked Needless to say, my neighbor did not have an easytime with all this. Who would? In the past year, she had experienced some twenty plus mini-floods, her carpets had been ruined, and her basement still reeked from the whole ordeal.

You would expect me, her good neighbor and friend, to have nothing but the utmost sympathy for her and to try to help in any way possible. Well, I admit it; I did not feel sympathy for her. At least not in the beginning. And I will admit further that the first thought that entered my mind, albeit involuntarily, was a fleeting sense of satisfaction. If feeling joy over the suffering of your neighbor is an indication of sinat chinam, baseless hatred, then I was guilty. And since I did not want to feel guilty, I did what most good people do when they experience a twinge of pleasure upon hearing of another's suffering; I pushed that fleeting thought, that twinge of satisfaction, out of my mind.

But by pushing the thought out of my mind, I was ignoring the fact that for some reason, I harbored negative feelings, albeit well-concealed ones (perhaps even bordering on hatred), towards my neighbor. I needed to face the truth. After all, are we not told, "Do not hate your brother in your heart"?

My neighbor has never done anything to offend me. In fact, she is a person who has shown nothing but kindness towards me from the day I moved in. So why was I experiencing such negative emotions? Well, there is one word that sums it up, and I think that this word is also the root of most unspoken interpersonal bitterness: insecurity. To put it simply, my neighbor seemed to be doing a much better job at living than I was. She seemed to always have it together while I was always falling apart. And so it was no wonder that I felt a twinge of satisfaction upon hearing that something was going wrong for her because in some strange, uniquely human, psychological way, it made me feel better about myself, and perhaps even superior - if just for a moment - than my neighbor.

But armed with this knowledge, what could I do? How could I free myself of my negative feelings? The only way I could think of to try to judge her more objectively, and to thereby change my views about her for the positive, would be to try to put myself in her shoes for a moment. And so, when I had a free minute and a relatively clear mind, I closed my eyes and thought about my neighbor. I tried to envision myself as her by imagining what her day involved and what her challenges might be.

I closed my eyes and thought about my neighborOf course we can never know where a person has been and what their personal tests are. But, by putting myself in her shoes and imagining what life might be like for her, I was able to see her as a real human being, and not just the image of the flawless person I had always imagined. My inner negativity disappeared, and I was able to see and appreciate my neighbor in a new and accurate light. Suddenly, I was able to feel real empathy for her, for what she was going through, and I was able to think of ways I could be of real assistance in her time of need.

Many of the fleeting thoughts that pass quickly through our minds are indicators of the grudges we hold against others. Do we ever feel a twinge of resentment at another's success, or a twinge of satisfaction at another's failure? These are indicators that we have what to work on in the realm of bein adam l'chavero, between man and his fellow man. Hopefully, instead of feeling guilty and pushing the thought out of our mind, if we try to consider the thought, understand its roots, and rectify it, then we can change our baseless hatred into love. And then we will be able to truly rejoice over our neighbor's success and feel genuine sympathy in their times of distress.