a boy sitting at a desk holding his hands over his ears and yelling

The Most Important Thing to Know About Behavior

by Tamar Davis, CEO

If you were in the same situation twice, would you behave the same way? This is the question of teshuvah gamor, or “full repentance.” In this Hebrew month of Elul leading up to the High Holy Days, we reflect on moments during the past year where we behaved in a way that we might regret or wish were different. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, in all the relationships I hold – with my children, my spouse, my parents, my colleagues, my friends…it can be an overwhelming and sometimes demoralizing process to analyze an entire year of behaviors. So I appreciate the action-oriented approach that Maimonides outlines in the three steps to the teshuvah (repentance) process. The first step is regret – feeling remorse about our actions. The second is confession. And then the third step is committing to not doing it again.

That third step is the pinnacle of teshuva gamor, of full repentance. Instead of berating ourselves over and over, we focus on how we would change our behavior in a similar future situation. Of course, this is easier said than done – changing behavior is one of the hardest things to do, and one of the first things Gateways teen volunteers learn about in their training workshops at the beginning of each year. While the training is intended to develop teen volunteers’ ability to support students with disabilities, diverse learning needs, and mental health needs in our program, when I read through the teen training material, it is striking how many of these lessons deepen my understanding of my own everyday interactions. Behavior is communication, and understanding what I and others are trying to communicate with our behaviors is key to figuring out how I can change my own behavior in a positive and helpful way. And modeling positive behavior begets more positive behavior, which creates a better society for all of us.

Wishing you a reflective and meaningful Elul – Shabbat shalom.

Signature of Tamar Davis

Tamar Davis, Chief Executive Officer