I had just finished giving a lecture to the faculty at my school about how the perceptions we have of our students impacts them, when the superintendent approached me. He was skeptical, and challenged me, “What about Roxanne?” Roxanne was wearing all black, thick black eyeliner, and a “bullring” nose hoop. She sat by herself at a nearby table, in the cafeteria, looking at her phone. I couldn’t back down now, so though I was palpably nervous, I said, “I’ll go talk to her.” I walked over and sat down. She looked at me, and immediately started asking what I was doing, using more superlatives than any other type of word. I said, “If you answer a few of my questions, I’ll buy you a soda.”
Up for a challenge, and a free soda, she agreed. I asked her, “Who was the best teacher you’ve ever had?” I expected her to curse the whole system, but instead, she softened, and said, “Mrs. Brown, my eighth grade math teacher.”
“Why?” I asked her.
“Well,” she looked away. Shyness took the place of intimidation. “She is actually kind of stupid. She thinks I’m going to go to college.”
“I also think so,” I said.
Suddenly, tears started to pour down her face. The black eyeliner started to streak, making a zebra-effect on her face. “I have no doubt,” I added.
As I handed her the dollar bill, I held her hand, and she broke down even more.
Suddenly, tears started to pour down her face. The black eyeliner started to streak, making a zebra-effect on her face.
In the teaching called “Azamra,” Rebbe Nachman urges, “Know! You need to judge every person favorably; even someone who is completely evil. you need to search and find any little bit of good in him which is not consumed by evil. By finding in him this bit of good and judging him favorably, you actually alter the judgements he has on him from up high to sweet good judgements”
If you were to ask a Breslover which of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings were the most crucial of all, he would answer, this one.”The name of this teaching, “Azamra,” literally means “I will sing.” In this teaching, Rebbe Nachman explains that judging a person positively begins with finding one good point in them, a נקודה טובה. Each good point, he explains, is a musical note. When I choose to focus on one good point, and then another, and another, I am stringing together musical notes, and creating a melody, a “nigun.” Focusing on these recovered fragments of good awakens a song of hope within the other, and, like in the case of Roxanne, dissolves all of the negativity that had eclipsed the radiance of her essence.
Focusing on these recovered fragments of good awakens a song of hope within the other
Let’s take another example. Imagine that your good friend admits that he stole money from you. You are trying to live this teaching, so first of all, you stop, quell your emotions, and find a good point. Remember the time that your friend dropped everything and drove with you to a relative’s funeral, hours away, because he did not want you to be alone? That’s one point.
Your friend works so hard to support his handicapped mother, and overextends himself just to make ends meet. What self sacrifice. There’s another good point. As you dig and find point after point, a soft melody begins to arise.
As you dig and find point after point, a soft melody begins to arise
How does this really work? Well, when I focus on the good in even a multiple offense convict, I am judging him favorably. Not just assuming that he probably was mistaken, and did not mean to take my money. You have much more power than that. You are the judge. By mentally deciding that this person is good because you have found proof, you have located a piece of hard evidence, called a good point, within him, then, in the court case in your mind, the gavel swings down with a resounding boom, and the verdict is decided- this person is in essence good.
You are the judge
Rebbe Nachman’s advice is something that modern psychology is just recently picking up on! He says that your positive judgment literally transforms your friend. When the good verdict is released, you free your friend from the bond of his wrong-doing, elevating him to innocence. Realizing his own inherent goodness, his direction is changed, as he now is awakened to do Teshuva, to mend his ways, and to transform his negative traits into positive ones.
This vital spiritual work must also be directed inwards. “I have so many goals to achieve and aspirations to attain, be they in the practical realm, or in the character-growth. But, often, I feel so stagnated! I don’t even have the energy to start!” This spiritual stagnation, explains Rebbe Nachman, stems from my own internal brokenness. “I’ve already wasted so much time. I’ve tried and failed. I’ve let people down. I’ve let myself down.” This negativity feeds on itself, impeding my will toward continued spiritual growth, and impeding my desire to even get up and pray.
your positive judgment literally transforms your friend
“A person must search and ask to find within himself some bit of good with which to make himself feel alive and happy. by searching and finding in himself this bit of good, he actually alters the judgements he has on himslef from up high, to sweet righteous judgements.” As he chooses one good point after another, a fresh melody begins to play through his own heartstrings, filling him with the joy that he needs to take that next step in his spiritual ascent.
“I need more music in my life,” many often think, because it true! Just like the guitar player hand-chooses one good note after another, and composes a song, so too, the Rebbe urges us to be musicians as well at every moment of our day. By choosing the good points within me, and within every person who I encounter, young or old, I fill my day with harmony, and transform my reality and those of the people around me. My friend’s frustrating comment becomes like the ding of a triangle, which when heard alone, sounds incongruent, yet in the larger piece, is precise. An insult becomes like the bass drum that comes in with a perfect beat. With each good point that I find, negativity in all of its permutations, is then able to be heard in the context of the grand symphony of life.
This article is based on likutei moharan 1, torah 282
Please note: We spent much time and effort to bring the inspirational teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov as accurately as possible in this article. If you find any mistakes in translation or have trouble understanding the article, please let us know! Feel free to comment below.We bless the viewers to be connected to Rebbe Nachman and to his teachings, and to always be happy and inspired…