Judging ourselves or others for who we are blocks the flow of love and forgiveness.

We have no right to judge others, just as others have no right to judge us. Everyone experiences negative emotions and thoughts and behaves unskillfully. While we may judge another’s actions as being destructive or unskillful, that is far different from judging who they are. You may pass judgment on the sin, but not the sinner. That is off limits. Instead, hold others accountable for their actions while maintaining compassion, goodwill, and respect in your heart. This fosters love.

Many of us struggle with the problem of evil. It is human and natural to condemn people like Hitler, psychopaths and sadists. Are these people deserving of respect and compassion?

One way to think about this is to consider evil to be a spiritual sickness. Evil people are spiritually ill in that they do not live according to the principle of love. They do not live to enhance the One Life of which they are a part, submitting their will to a higher moral code that serves a higher good. Instead, they act destructively for their own gain or pleasure with a disregard for what is true, right, and good. These people are spiritually disabled, for if they were spiritually healthy they would surely choose love and thus taste the fruits of love. Seeing evil as a sickness helps cultivate compassion and non-judgment of the personhood of the person afflicted with evil.

This is not to say that evil people don’t have a choice. They do. Barring psychosis or neuropsychiatric impairment, we are all accountable for our behavior. Still, to choose evil over love shows a lack of spiritual skill. While we may put these people behind bars to protect us, we can still have compassion for their disability.

A second important fact to consider is that we all have the capacity for evil. We have all acted selfishly. We have all been hurtful. We have all acted unethically. The problem of evil is a universal human problem. Each of us has to solve the paradox of our autonomy and interdependence. Each of us struggles with our integrity and sometimes comes up short. If we are humble about our own shortcomings, we will be less inclined to judge others for their shortcomings.

To cultivate non-judgment, note that we don’t decide what to think or feel. Thinking and feeling naturally happen. Thoughts and feelings then drive behavior. Much of our behavior is automatic, neurologically predetermined even before we are aware of it. We are all susceptible to acting on destructive emotions and misunderstandings borne of a lack of mindfulness.

Second, note that at our core we are the same. We are pure, empty Awareness. This pure Awareness is perfect, sacred, unchanging, and complete. Thus, we are all perfect, sacred, unchanging, and complete, apart from the constant changes in thoughts, feelings, understandings, actions, and our physical form. The sacred light of Awareness shines in each of us. This is beyond judgment.

Third, recognize the impact of grace and circumstance. When the impulse to judge others arises, see that you would have acted exactly as they did if you had their genes and life experiences. This understanding invites compassion. It also helps you to let go of judging yourself for your own unskillful behavior. We simply do the best we can given our awareness, understanding, resources, and skills. It can be no other way. All we can do is learn from this moment to improve the next moment.

Finally, stop condemning yourself or others for who we are. We don’t choose our personalities or neurobiology. While we might condemn a destructive act, we should not condemn the person, including ourselves, who committed the act.

If we cannot differentiate between who we are and our actions, how can we live with ourselves? We need to hold ourselves and others with a basic reverence and respect if we are to ever achieve internal peace and external harmony. Non-judgment shifts shame to a healthy remorse that can foster our capacity to love.

Compassion begins with you and then flows outward to others. Judging yourself for you you are is destructive. Judging others for who they are is destructive. When you notice your mind judging, see it as a destructive habit and gently let it go.

Image from: