Defining Growth

By Orah Gidanian, Me'ohr Baeis Yaakov
 
My goal when deciding to spend the year in an institute in Israel was the classic one- I wanted to grow. 
 
I wanted to mature and expand myself from experiences that I would not be privy to otherwise. 
 
Except I don’t think I truly knew or understood what the word meant or what it was I meant when saying “I want to grow”. 
 
Growth is such an elusive word. So overused and abused making it hard to define. 
 
And growth is so personal that each definition is only dependent on the person defining it. 
 
When I think of my experiences of learning in Israel for the year, no single event stands out in my mind. 
 
When I think of Israel, however, I think of the thousands of different people and the thousand and one different life styles each lives. 
 
I think of the beauty of that diversity, of each group finding a life that works for them and living it to the fullest.  
 
And it was when I saw this that I realized exactly what growth meant to me.  
 
Too often in my life, I had my own explanation for things. 
 
I knew-and therefore, I didn’t see the need in perceiving things differently, not realizing how much I would have gained from or appreciated another view. 
 
My mistake was in being puerile, content with just my own view, which led me to become close minded to anyone else’s opinion. 
 
Yet my experience in Israel was enlightening. 
 
It is impossible to walk through geula, have a meal in the Old City, pray at the kotel, or sit on a city bus, without becoming aware of all the different views and opinions that shape our people. 
 
Everyone I came into contact with I could learn from- and I knew then what growth meant to me. 
 
Growth meant cultivating an openness. 
 
It meant a willingness to listen and acknowledging what was being said around me. 
 
I didn’t have to agree with what I heard, but by acknowledging what someone had to say, there was the opportunity to learn from that person and grow, both as an individual and a member of society. 
 
Openness leads to pluralistic thinking, which in turn leads to a heightened awareness of different possibilities. 
 
It leads to a non-linear perspective and openness to angles outside your own reality tunnel. 
 
A chronic inability to be open to other views ultimately results in a chronic dearth of ideas. 
 
Because no matter how sure we may be about what we believe to be true and no matter how sincere and noble our efforts may be about articulating that truth. 
 
If a mind really is “open,” it is not finished. It is still open to influence, to change, to growth. 
 
Israel taught me to recognize that there are ideas outside my realm of understanding that I could benefit from, and once I learnt to see this I was able to take what was outside and integrate it within myself, finally pinning down what it was I wanted all along- growth. 
 

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