On the one hand, it says, “Who is the strong person? The one who masters his inner drives.”
Elsewhere it says, “Every day a person’s inner drives overpower him and attempt to kill him; were it not for Divine blessing, he wouldn’t survive.”
According to source one, his power is that he master his drives – he does it. According to source two, there is no such thing as one who masters his drives; he always needs divine help.
Rav Chaim explains the apparent contradiction. The power of the one who “masters” is not found in his conquering his drives – or anything for that matter. His power is found in his peaceful understanding that mastery requires help. He knows he cannot do it alone and so he persists, free from the despair that would otherwise arise from his inability to deliver the goods. That humble persistence is his power and it will bring Divine blessing.
I saw this the other night as I listened to my son share a subtle point of Talmud he’s learning. He became unclear about his train of thought for a moment. I tried to assist him. It didn’t help. He became frustrated and furrowed his brow, summoning even greater exertion.
While I felt nachas from his efforts, I could also see he was becoming discouraged: “Why can’t I figure this thing out?”
Results are gifts; it’s peaceful power, not anxious exertion, that position us to receive them.