Netzach. Endurance. Gevurah. Judgment. Netzach she’b’gevurah. Enduring Judgment.
Ever read evaluations of your own teaching? Or an event you led?
If so, then you know. You might get 28 positive comments, with one negative outlier. And what do you remember most? What lingers in your thoughts and hurts your heart? The one negative comment. Even if it comes from a mere acquaintance. Or even a stranger.
But some people are more important than mere strangers. Early caregivers, for example. The ones you watch carefully for cues about how to be in this world. And whose cues you respond to. And your responses become your habits of thought, feeling, and action.
What happens when they judge you negatively? I don’t mean once, out of grief, anger, or fear. But regularly, habitually. How does that form you?
I was raised by my mother and father and aunt. My father always tried to build up my confidence. But Mom and Aunt weren’t that careful. If they thought I mis-stepped, they let me know. Lovingly, but sometimes sarcastically.
Especially when I became a young adult. At least, that’s how I remember it. I wasn’t a great communicator. Let me clarify that. When I called or wrote, I was very articulate. But I didn’t call or write very often. Probably I was full-up with work and school. And needed the little alone time I got to just be quiet.
When I did call, Aunt would say, “Well how do you do!!!” Mom was more direct, “You never call your mother!” This went on for 35 years.
So I came to think of myself as someone who falls out of touch. And who should be ashamed of herself. And who, when she does reach out, will be received with sarcasm and scolding.
Well, you know how that goes. When I miss a friend, I immediately feel ashamed. When I think of reaching out, I picture them scolding me. So what do I do? I put it off again.
But here’s the thing. No one has ever scolded me for reaching out. No one except Mom and Aunt S. And even Mom changed in the last few years of her life. When I’d call, she would say, “Hello, I love you.”
But the negative judgments endure. And, I am still afraid to reach out if weeks or months have passed.
This morning, a friend died of COVID. Almost a year to the day since we last talked. Over the year, I thought of her often. The more I missed her, the more ashamed I felt. So, I put off the call.
Today I just feel sad. And I see, so clearly, how some old judgments get in my way. So, I resolve to pay better attention. And to set aside those harsh judgments planted in a much younger me, by people who finished raising me a long time ago.
Judgment endures. But, sometimes, I get to decide if it should.
Today is the eleventh day of the Omer, one week and four days.
Rest in peace, B. Your memory is a blessing.
New to the Omer count? Here’s a primer.
Image: Painting by Laura Duhan-Kaplan, 1989.