From our very conception we have been judged. In the name of health and well-being nurses and doctors tracked our growth to be sure we were developing as expected. Once born, we are bathed in an environment of opposites that teaches us about ourselves, our world and others. You are good or bad. Situations are black or white. Things are hot or cold. There seems to be nothing that exists that doesn’t have a defined opposite.
We become so adept at judgment that oft times it is done without any conscious thought or intent. In mere moments we scan a situation or person, assessing and categorizing them based on our personal intake. It appears that there are no humans that escape this modus operandi. I would like to say I am the exception to the rule, but I would be lying. I have met a few who piously claim they are not judgmental, only to find them several days later calling another a “jerk”. Just for the record, that falls under the category of judgmental.
We are also taught to not judge others, a judgment of judgment thrown into the mix to add further to the conundrum we find ourselves immersed in; judgment now becoming a moral dilemma. This dictate feels futile for as we discussed earlier, that’s our navigational system for our entire existence and we are simply left to feel even more judgmental; this time, about ourselves.
In fact, we believe so strongly in our judgments that we begin to believe with great conviction that we are the almighty “right”. Surely when we’re right, they must be wrong; solidifying polarization on an even deeper level as we place ourselves on the “I’m superior to you” pedestal.
So if we can’t completely escape what appears to have been hardwired into our brains, where does that leave us? I do not profess to have all the answers, only the ones that have worked for me thus far, as I’m a work in progress.
Step one is acceptance. Based on the knowledge that we can’t function in this realm without the tool of judgment, we need to honestly accept that this is part of our humanity. Please note I said part of our humanity, not all. That’s key because that’s where step two comes into play.
Step two is conscious decisions. Now that we know and understand our dynamics a bit more, we can make more informed choices as we travel about our days. Which “part” of ourselves are we going to put into action? I suggest you ask yourself this the next time you become aware of a judgmental thought: “Is this necessary or important?” If the thoughts rattling around in your brain are simply commenting on the humid weather, than perhaps that’s a necessary observation as you might need or want to seek physical comfort. But, if you’re focus is the unfortunate size and shape of the woman’s butt that happens to be in front of you, I’d put that on the spectrum of “not important”. Here lies your choice and this is one of the tools I utilize when I find myself traveling down the “not necessary” road, I abruptly cease my judgmental thought and simply say in my mind to that individual, “May you be happy and healthy.” It really can be that simple, and in keeping with the concept of judgment, is a much kinder approach to others that allows you the chance to then not get caught up in the vicious cycle of self-judgment.
Step three is realizing that you are part of the problem. Indeed there may be times when we are “right”. Aunt Sally is downing a case of beer a day and she doesn’t understand your concern with this behavior, that falls under the category of being “right”. Being “right” does not automatically put one in the category of superior, however, and that’s where we actually convey an energy that is more likely to keep another more entrenched in the exact behavior or action we have been judging. I think we can all agree that no one responds well to being judged. An air of judgment headed our way usually puts us in a defensive mode, feeling as though we need to justify and truly protect ourselves. Thus, we are more likely to disregard and discount another’s suggestions or insights and stay fully enmeshed in the behavior or mode that is in question.
Step four is being an example. As hard as we try, and we have all tried too many times to count, we can not control another’s behaviors. Perhaps our role in each others’ lives is not to be the judge and jury, but simply an example. Emulate the behavior and actions you suggest another embody, that is the only place our power lies and is one that is more likely to create or support a change in others.
Step five is to repeat, repeat, repeat all the steps listed above. In practicing a less judgmental approach we are not always going to get it “right”, don’t worry I’m not judging you, but we can “get it better”.
Be well and happy.