I’ve been reading Irvin Yalom’s book “Love’s Executioner.” It’s a collection of true stories from his experiences being a therapist. For someone who is in training to be a counselor, it’s an inspiring set of stories and points out many key points in the development of an outlook to dealing with patients and one’s own issues as a therapist.
In one of Yalom’s stories, he describes a woman who has come from a very difficult background. She discloses a lot of information about her background to him, including parts of her younger years when she did many things that she wasn’t particularly proud of. After divulging this information, Dr. Yalom asks his patient how it feels to tell him all these things. His patient says that she feels a mixture of being relieved and being afraid he will judge her and lose respect for her because of the information she has revealed. Dr. Yalom responds that she has no need to worry. He says, “The more I hear from you, the more I like you. I’m full of admiration for what you’ve overcome and what you’ve done in life.” (p. 146)
I think it’s similar to the life of a Ba’al Teshuvah. Many are afraid to unveil information about their past lives, because they are afraid people will judge them because of it. I have been hearing lately about how it’s harder in shidduchim because I’m a Baalas Teshuvah, because people don’t want someone who comes from such a background.
But the truth is, people should have Dr. Yalom’s outlook. They should see how much work a person has to do to move beyond their background, their past. Those things that they aren’t necessarily proud of just show how far they have come, and how much work they have done. People should judge them on the changes they have put effort into making in their lives, rather than what happened before they even knew what Torah was about.
Baalei Teshuvah should be proud of who they are, because of how much they had to overcome. And it shouldn’t be held against them, for shidduchim or otherwise.