THE PITFALL OF JUDGMENT
#1: Recognize the Judge Within
Since childhood, many of us were taught to judge. We witnessed those around us judging each other, and we also felt the bitter sting of being judged. You’d think that experience would discourage us from judging others. But when the human mind is threatened - unless it’s a very disciplined mind - it tends to default into survival mode. And that is what creates our “judge or be judged” impulse. Judging makes us feel superior. The problem with judging others is that our inner judge will inevitably turn on us. Harsh outer judgment is usually a reflection of harsh inner judgment. When we judge others, it temporarily numbs the pain of our own self-judgments. But that anesthetic comes at the high cost of feeding a vicious cycle of judgment. However, there’s a tactic we can use to break that cycle. The moment we catch ourselves judging another, our immediate thought should be, “In what subtle ways am I like that without realizing it?” Even if our answer is, “I’m not like that at all,” just pausing to ask ourselves that question takes us from cynicism and insecurity to humility and self-improvement.
#2: Widen Your Judgmental Perspective
Being judgmental of someone disregards the question, “Why?” Backstories matter. And when someone does something objectionable, it’s often the result of an internal conflict or a lack of compassionate influence in their life. “What conditions in this person’s life have led to this behavior?” It’s helpful to ask yourself this sometimes-unanswerable question before passing judgment on them. Acknowledging that there is always a backstory to behavior gives you patience with another’s growth process… which, in turn, gives you patience with your own growth process. To be clear, though, this isn’t about ignoring or candy-coating bad behavior. But there’s a fine line between judgment and observation. You can observe that an act is unkind or flawed. But the moment you label a person as that, you’ve crossed the line into judgment. Over several millennia, some of history’s most compassionate icons have cautioned us to “Judge the sin but not the sinner.” Depending on the offense, this can be a tall order. And it certainly doesn’t rule out consequences in response to unacceptable behavior. But this advice reminds us that we’re all in different stages of growth. And despite how immature some of us act, we all have the potential to grow as human beings. Try not to mistake someone’s process of growth for their end result.
#3: Choose to Grow From Judgment
When you judge others less, this, of course, doesn’t make you immune from being judged by others. Some judgments are irrational misperceptions; those generally won’t phase you. But the judgments that hurt are almost always judgments you still hold about yourself. When you encounter one of those, your ego will automatically want to defend itself. But your soul will want to grow from the experience. Keeping your ego in check while objectively reflecting on why you’re being judged is the only way you’ll be able to reconcile and heal your own self-judgments. Engaging this process, you will become more honest with yourself and less judgmental of others. And that is a very attractive quality. It conveys a sense of trust and refuge. People will feel better about themselves when they’re around you and wonder why. The reason is that you’ve become a shelter from their own unhealed and often subconscious negative beliefs about themselves. The first step in becoming that shelter is speaking without judgment… that’s called self-control. The next step is thinking without judgment… that is called self-mastery.
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