Tonight begins Netzah, week four of the Omer: endurance, fortitude, ambition, the exercise of one's own strength. On this 22nd day we consider the relationship of lovingkindness to endurance, Hesed of Netzah:
For anything to endure it needs to be loved... Endurance without love can be counterproductive. Raw endurance can come across as harsh and aggressive, which undermines the cooperation of others.... Does my endurance cause me to be, or seem to be, inflexible? Does my drive and determination cause me to be controlling? In order to get my way, would I allow others to get hurt?
(There are, by the way, other excellent Omer guides out there, but Rabbi Jacobson's is direct and succinct, like the abstract to a scholarly article, and therefore simplest to quote.)
I've never had a lot of power to wield, so I'm very careful when it does happen to come my way. I've been a good boss. If anything, I bend over backwards in the other direction; I'm too nice, and tend to overlook the flaws of others. I don't let myself be stepped on, but could stand to be more aggressive. In one realm, however, I am harsh and inflexible: my kindness to myself. I work too hard, for many reasons all of which are logical and none sensible, and cut myself insufficient slack. It's an old, bad habit that's been difficult to break.
But tomorrow I'm cashing in on the universe's reward to me for getting through this crappy week: I'm once again helping to lead services. I could have said no* and stuck with existing plans for dinner with friends, but instead I'll make motzi on my own and grab a quick bite beforehand and then, immersed in music and Shabbat, forget about any wall that pretends to invest me with power but only keeps me hidden, any strength except that in my own voice.
* OK, to be honest: no way could I have said no, unless I had pre-existing plans for dinner followed by the implementation of surefire world peace, or something along those lines.