In Mussar literature as well as in parenting, we are taught the concept: “midah k’neged midah”. This can be loosely translated as “measure for measure.” In parenting, we try to make sure that we are responding appropriately to our children at the same level, or “measure” as they are behaving, whether answering their questions or consequences for breaking a rule. We’re probably most comfortable applying this concept to the latter, or in more plain language, making sure the punishment fits the crime.
Even in Judaism, the idea of “measure for measure” has that connotation. We analyze the Torah and the reward/punishments attributed to following the mitzvot according to that standard and sometimes even judge God’s behavior that way as well.
Mussar, which started developing in the Middle Ages, is a Jewish spiritual practice that gives concrete instructions on how to live a meaningful and ethical life. Musar literature has a different view of “midah k’neged midah”. Mussar understands midah as a characteristic, and each characteristic can be taken to extremes on either side of a spectrum. Our goal is to find the right balance for us.
Mussar, spiritual practice, and most of all balance all came to mind when I read an article from the Harvard Business Review titled, “Your Burnout is Unique, Your Recovery Will Be Too.” I was directed to this article from a clergy organization talking about organizational burnout, and how organizational burnout is rooted in individual burnout. We can’t solve burnout at an organizational level because each person’s burnout is unique; it must be solved at the individual level.
The article identified three kinds of burnout and specific actions that can be used to “balance” each kind to help mitigate the negative effects. If we have a particular kind of burn-out, and yet try an action that is better aimed toward a different kind of burn-out, then the action may even backfire. For example, taking extra time off and practicing self-care is not the solution to everyone’s burn-out. It’s hard to imagine, but for some who may be feeling lonely from lack of human contact, having more focus on themselves isn’t necessarily helpful.
I encourage all of us to read this article for two reasons: I expect that in some way everyone is feeling burn-out or trauma from the changes in our society, and I believe this article is helpful. The article also reminds us that we’re all different and we all need different things.
“Midah K’neged Midah” – Measure for Measure
The need for balance, though, is certainly one thing that we all have in common.