In this week’s parashah, the Israelites get their first real taste of the Promised Land. Having survived slavery and come into liberation, having encountered God at Mount Sinai, having faced their own flaws as they tried to worship a golden calf, having come all this way, they are finally about to reach the culmination of their journey. The first people who forge ahead to scout the Promised Land see with their own eyes that it is a great land, rich in fruit, flowing with milk and honey. Despite all this, they are afraid.
“The people who inhabit the country are very powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large,” they observe, first with seeming objectivity. Soon after, they begin to catastrophize – not about the land, but about themselves. “We cannot attack that people, for it is stronger than we! All the people in it are men of great size. We looked like grasshoppers to ourselves, and so we must have looked to them” (from Numbers 13:28, 31-33).
The commentary in the Etz Hayim states plainly that this last phrase “conveys the essence of the scouts’ failure: that these first scouts of the Promised Land did not believe in themselves. They had no way of knowing what others thought of them! But they saw themselves as weak and ineffectual, and assumed that others saw them the same way.”
When was the last time you saw yourself as a grasshopper?
For me, it was literally yesterday. I was in a situation where I received some feedback on a conflict I was working to resolve… and not the good kind of feedback. A friend told me, in no uncertain terms: You shouldn’t have said what you said; you acted inappropriately.
When I heard this I was instantly crushed. My heart sank; my mind went to the worst possible places; my response was on the defensive. I simultaneously found myself trying to explain how my actions were intended for the best while beginning to believe that as a person, I was the worst. I left the interaction feeling terrible. Not only had I lost faith in my ability to navigate the situation at hand, I had also lost faith in myself as a person. I believed I was a grasshopper – I completely forgot that, in truth, I am a holy soul.
Today, with a bit more perspective, I can see that moments like these are part of the human experience. It happened to me yesterday, it happened to the Israelites back then, and it has probably happened to you at one point or another in your own experience. (Remember: in truth, YOU are a holy soul!)
How do we navigate moments like these, staying out of the lies we tell ourselves, staying grounded in reality, and turning our efforts back to the task at hand without giving up? As I met these challenges in my own experience yesterday, I remembered a new recovery tool that I had just learned: the Codependents Anonymous Recovery Prayer (the full text is available here: https://coda.org/meeting-materials/recovery-prayer/). To bring myself out of that grasshopper feeling, and back into the reality that I am a unique and precious creation, I worked through the prayer one part at a time.
First, I accepted other people as they are. The person who gave me the feedback, simply put, said what they said the way they said it. That was what they believed, and that was how they expressed themselves. The reality of the situation did not have to be a personal insult: instead it could be a neutral fact. It amazed me that, after I came to this realization, I instantly felt so much better.
Second, I recognized my own feelings. I was sad: my feelings were hurt. I was angry: I felt attacked! I was afraid: maybe this friend wouldn’t trust me anymore. I was remorseful: maybe my actions did cause harm. And, in a way, I was even happy: I had tried my best to solve a problem, rather than ignoring it, and I was open to learning from my experiences.
Next, I met my own needs. I realized I needed to be respected, understood, honored, and granted the space to make mistakes and learn. And I made the decision to respect, understand, honor, and grant space to myself. I recognized that I could do this for myself, rather than looking to others to do it for me.
Finally, I made a special effort to love myself just as I am. Like a parent hugging a child who has had a hard day at school, I sent some extra love to my inner child and to myself, just because some days are harder than others, and especially on hard days, it’s so nice to feel some extra love.
As we encounter situations in life that give us that grasshopper feeling, may we be blessed to recognize that we are not alone in our experience. May we be inspired to turn to our spiritual practices and tools of recovery, coming back to faith in ourselves. And may we find our way back to the reality that we are not actually grasshoppers: we are human beings, unique and precious creations with holy souls.