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One of the ways that we harm ourselves and others is by judging. Judging is an instinctive but unhelpful mental habit that poisons our capacity to love. When we do not love, we and others suffer.
Judging comes in several flavors. One is when you judge a situation as good or bad. We automatically judge things as bad whey they are painful. If we lose our job or our spouse leaves us, we judge these as bad situations. But just because a situation is painful does not necessarily mean it is bad. A loss may usher in a new opportunity, or teach us a valuable lesson. If someone loses their fortune, they may discover that their happiness lies not in material wealth. Was their loss good, or bad? Often, what we judge as bad because it is painful turns out to be a blessing in disguise.
One may ask, “Why is this happening to me?” Or, one may ask, “Why is this happening for me?” The first question implies an impersonal universe in which we are buffeted by circumstances. The second implies a loving intelligent force is at work. While death, destruction, loss, and tragedy visit us all, we cannot always know the hidden perfection of this seemingly imperfect universe. Refraining from the judgment of our circumstances as good or bad is thus an act of faith. If we have faith in the hidden perfection of Reality, we can better go about making lemonade out of lemons and humbly learning what Life has to teach us.
A second form of judgment is when you judge your or someone else’s behavior as good or bad. If a thief steals from you, you may say, “What he did was wrong!” Maybe, or maybe not. Certainly you can discern that it was hurtful and unlawful. But what if she was stealing from you out of a desperate need to get money to feed her starving child, and saw no other option? Sometimes good and bad, or right and wrong, can be complicated. There is a difference between making judgments about good or bad and discerning whether an action was skillful or unskillful, wise or unwise, helpful or unhelpful. Discernment of the merits of an act is different from crude judgments of good or bad.
A third, more destructive form of judgment is the global judgments we make of ourselves and others regarding our characters, our value, and our capacities. You may say, “He is an insensitive jerk.” Or you may say, “I am a worthless loser.” These types of global judgments of ourselves or others are destructive. First, they are not true. We may discern that someone behaves in a hurtful or insensitive way, but that does not justify casting a global, negative label upon them. All the major world religions counsel against this. They separate the actor from the act. Second, they hurt. They hurt others, who suffer under the weight of our judgments. They also hurt us, as they close down our hearts. Global judgments leave us with a hard, negative bitterness. They motivate us to be hurtful to ourselves and others. Global judgments are the fuel for retribution, war, and suicide. They block the flow of understanding, compassion, and forgiveness so necessary for our individual and collective vitality.
Make a personal commitment to let go of judgments when they arise. Mindfully note when judging happens. Don’t judge yourself for judging; judging is an instinctive mental behavior. It takes mindful practice for all of us to recognize and renounce judging, as all our brains judge by default.
Notice how judging feels. Replace judging with discernment. Then notice how non-judging feels. Which feels better?
You can also reduce the impulse to judge by attempting to understand. Why does someone think as they do, feel as they do, and act as they do? If you ask, “Help me understand,” the answers will not only deepen your understanding, but through understanding will deepen your compassion.
With the possible rare exception of psychopaths, see that we are all basically good. People who behave destructively are generally sick in a destructive way. We are all Bozos on the bus, in the same boat, just trying to get by as best we can. See that if we were to have another’s genes, experiences, and their thoughts and feelings, we would likely have acted as they acted.
Commit to a lifelong practice of unconditionally loving yourself just as you are. If you are secure in your shortcomings, you will feel less of an urge to judge others.
Cultivate a reverence for the one Reality of which you are a part. When you judge yourself, others, or circumstances, you are not showing respect for Reality. See that having a reverence for Realty promotes peace and harmony.
Remember that when you judge, it says more about your own pride and lack of humility than it says about others. See non-judging as a practice to dissolve your pride and cultivate your humility.
Non-judgment is good for you, for it puts you in loving harmony with yourself and others. It enables you to take care of yourself and protect yourself—in a sometimes brutal world—with kindness. Since non-judgment facilitates loving action, you will find that your loving actions will bring love back to you several fold. This will enhance your joy.
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Image from: https://keystoneinnovationchallenge.com/judges/judging-instructions.