What does it mean to be a unique person? Viktor Frankl once said that true uniqueness is not simply an outgrowth of numerical singularity; there is more to your being the only you than the fact that there is only one of you.  If we accept the idea that every person has a life mission to fulfill that has been designated specifically for him or her, then we can begin to value each person.  Better stated, value flows forth from the fact that each one of us is in this world, has been given another day, for a reason.  This in and of itself is sufficient to enable us to hold each person in our minds and hearts as special in essence.

The challenge that awaits every individual is the question: Who will decide what that reason is or will be?  Will it be the person himself? Will it be the people or institutions in his environment or “society”?  Every day, when we leave our own four walls, we come face to face with others’ expectations and demands, many of which are perfectly reasonable, some of which are decidedly unreasonable, and some of which are in between.  Determining one’s own mission in life is done through extending the antenna of conscience outward and trying to get as clear a signal as possible.  That’s why nobody else can do it for you.

This morning, my wife was told by the playgroup teacher that our son was not complying with her instructions.  My wife was visibly frustrated; it’s hard to hear that kind of thing.  We want our children to be warmly received and regarded, especially by those people we have engaged to teach them.  And, it’s really a “mission clash”: she wants to be able to smoothly direct the group of children from one planned activity to another, and he wants to fulfill the needs of his own three-year-old world.  Yes, he needs to learn how to respect the wishes of the adult or other authority in charge; that’s an important life skill.  At the same time, if we really value him, we have to impart that lesson while keeping his uniqueness in mind, remembering that he is here to fulfill his mission, too.

Imagine if we could bear this in mind when we relate to our spouses, family members, children, friends — even to perfect strangers.  Then our vision might extend beyond the needs of our own egos, beyond “what will the neighbors say?”, beyond the categories in which we place ourselves and everyone around us, and toward a place of transcendent values — the same “place” from where our uniqueness comes.

About Tanchum Burton

Rabbi Tanchum Burton is a psychotherapist who works with a wide range of clients, from individuals to couples to families. In addition to his private practice, he has served as the therapeutic director of a program for at-risk youth and their families, as well as a group therapy facilitator with an organization that focuses on sexual abuse in communities. He is currently finishing his training at the Victor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. Rabbi Burton finds much inspiration in Logotherapy, which emphasizes meaning, consciousness and responsibility as the primary concerns of all human beings. Read more about Rabbi Burton's thoughts and activities at: onthederech.wordpress.com/
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