What Would Jesus Do?” (WWJD?) was a very popular saying as I was growing up, and people would always say they were making a certain life decision because it is what they believed Jesus would have done.
I highly respected those individuals and wanted to have that same desire and decision-making process in my life.
However, when it came time for me to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” in my early adult years, I found myself confused and lost. I didn’t understand how to become a better person, a better disciple, without practical applications for everyday living. The ethereal question of WWJD didn’t give me the practical tools of discipleship living that I desperately needed. This crisis hit me hard during my first couple of years in college, and I walked away from the path of discipleship. However, very soon I remembered again my desire to be a disciple and live as Yeshua did. This all culminated when I started studying Mussar. In Judaism, Mussar is a practice of self-discipline, of improving oneself through various traits. It was eye-opening, I immediately wanted to begin my journal and take an accounting of my actions. This was a joy that I had lost, and gave me the answer to actual, physical ways to grow as a disciple of my Messiah.
As a student of medicine, I was reminded of a principle that is similar to the way our physical bodies function. In our bodies, we have something called active immunity, which means that each time your body is infected with a pathogen (bacteria), certain cells will destroy it and create antibodies (good cells). When this happens, your body is creating a quicker and more efficient response to infection in the future. If we look at this in light of our souls and according to Mussar, we can see the similarity. The same way our bodies are introduced to infection, our souls can be introduced to infection as well. When we take care of our souls, like our bodies, we can develop strong immunities to fight off infection.
Mussar teaches that each time we make a positive choice, it will be easier to make a positive choice the next time the same way each time our body neutralizes a bacteria it is better able to and quicker at neutralizing it the next time. Mussar also gives practical and real answers to the question WWJD. When you come to a problem of a specific trait you have been working on and studying about, you will be more prone to have a second voice in your head that will tell you not to take the easy way out. Take the way that our Master would take—to submit ourselves to humiliation and pain in order to sanctify the name of HaShem.
A daily practice of striving to think positive thoughts of someone or helping with the dishes prepares us to face large challenges. As the Master says in Luke 16:10, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” It is the minor adjustments we make in our days, the smile we show to a stranger or even the piece of trash we pick up off of the street. Each minor thing is a step toward Tikkun Olam and the return of our Master Yeshua. Mussar brought back discipleship into my life and opened for me the practical applications of WWJD. I pray it will do the same for you.
A great resource to get started in Mussar is a book titled Cheshbon HaNefesh and can be found on Amazon.