Gevurah she’b’gevurah. Judgment in Judgment.
I’ve been waiting for this one. Why? Well, my memory might be a little fuzzy. But I’m pretty sure I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation about this 30 years ago.
So much, I said, goes into making good judgments. You have to listen and read carefully. Understand a social and political environment. See how power works and thus learn to problem-solve well. Observe the effects of your decisions and evaluate your ethics.
You must draw good logical inferences. But also know when to set logic aside for imagination. Use metaphors to make new connections. But also recognize when you see only your projections instead of what’s real.
Wow. When I put it that way, making good judgments seems like a lot of work. Every judgment is an avalanche of mini-judgments. Is avalanche the right word? Maybe it’s more like a maze. Or an obstacle course.
Sometimes, when I’m agonizing over something, it does feel that way. But, more often, all the details come together in a single intuition. If you ask me to explain, I might talk about politics, power, or ethics. About logic, imagination, or separating myself from a situation. Because it all factors in, somehow.
Somehow. And here’s where I second-guess myself. Am I actually wise? Or do I make that other stuff up as an afterthought, a justification? Can I tell when my explanation is genuine? Or when, instead, I’m lying to myself a little bit?
Good judgment, I think, should start with an uncompromising search for truth. And then use that truth in a nuanced way. Maybe even to craft a compromise. But, if I can’t trust my truth, will my compromise be a good one?
Here’s a simple example. When I teach in my inter-religious classroom, I try to be aware of students’ inter-generational trauma. Using my family and cultural history, I try to understand and empathize. And then, teach in a nuanced way. But what if read my students’ cues poorly? Misunderstand the political context? Don’t really see how power works in the classroom? And what if I can’t tell when I’m wrong?
Yes, of course they’ll tell me. But will I trust my responses to them?
I want so badly to be a wise teacher who uses good judgment. One who masters every little judgment within judgment.
Call me unrealistic. But I’ll call me aspirational. And maybe a little bit anxious, too.
Today is day 9 of the Omer, one week and two days.
New to the Omer count? Here’s a primer.