On Being Judgmental

I wrote this post on Facebook recently:

Judgment of another person puts them in a box and reduces them to a mere label. When we judge ourselves, we put ourselves in the same box. Compassion is what opens the box — the full-spectrum humanity of the other person (as well as our own) is revealed, shining like a jewel.

I was mentoring a brilliant young coach who complained about her own judgmental nature. She found that her judgment of others kept her separate from them. It created a safe distance, but made her feel lonely.  The problem was her habit of mind: She judged everyone, including herself.  “Judging others is bad,” she said, “and I’m bad for judging others.”  I pointed out that judgment is a sword with two sharp ends.  It always stabs in both directions.

One definition of “to judge” is “a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion.”  Another is “the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing.”

Discernment is the positive side of evaluation and forming opinions. It is the ability to detect whether something is good for you or not, helping you establish good boundaries with others and the world, and  keep yourself healthy and safe.  We could all use a little more discernment.

What turns discernment into judgment is the added belief (a value judgment) that the other person’s characteristic or behavior is not just different (or “not right for me”), but is wrong or bad.  There is a positive benefit to doing so: an elevation of self-status.  If he’s bad or she’s wrong, I’m now above them.  That feels good.  As social creatures, we want to know where we belong in the pecking order.  We want to elevate our status whenever possible.  Judging others works well.  If I put her down, I go up.

Once we label someone with our judgment, we no longer see them as a complete human being with the full range of personal characteristics: successes, failures, struggles, pain, joys, limitations, beauty, glory, etc.  Instead, we see through the label we’ve slapped onto them.  They are no longer a person — they are sub-human, a thing, an object of our derision.  In the extreme, this turns into verminization — seeing a group or class of people as pests which must be destroyed.

We lose our connection to the person or group we’ve judged, and immediately lose our connection to the part of ourselves that is like them.  Until we judge, we are part of everything, and everything is a part of us.  The ultimate result of judgment’s harsh and final separation is our own deep feeling of being disconnected — alone in the world.  Our loneliness then turns us into a sociopathic seeker after connection, which we might find in drugs, alcohol, unloving sex, bad relationships, food, over-work, or some other addiction.

Imagine removing the belief “There’s something bad (or wrong) about that person.”  Then imagine replacing it with the belief, “That person is different than I am, but just like me, they are a full-spectrum human.  They have had difficulties and hurts, and they are seeking ways to be happy.  Just like me, they are learning about life, the world, and themselves.”

This is the essence of compassion, which removes the “Other” from the box we’ve put them into, and gives them back their humanity.  We become more fully human in the process.

And if we are judge ourselves (and who among us does not?), we do the same thing – label ourselves, make ourselves wrong, aim the arrow of criticism inward.  Try this belief instead:  “Just like other full-spectrum humans, I’m a learning being.  I make mistakes, and that’s how I learn and grow.  I am a multidimensional doorway to Spirit, to God, to Source.  My soul is whole and unbroken, and my human nature is beautiful, including its imperfections.  I am a part of the Universe, I belong here, and I accept all aspects of myself.”

Here’s the test of whether a belief is empowering and positive:  Would you enjoy living in a world in which everyone believed that?

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