July 27, 2009
How often do you judge others?
If you’re anything like me and so many of the people I know, probably all the time. Most of us are incredibly judgmental, whether or not we admit it. I’ve been quite aware of my own judgmental tendency for much of my life. While it does seem to ebb and flow based on my own level of confidence, inner peace, and fulfillment and I continue to work on being less judgmental, in the past few weeks I’ve been confronted by how pervasive it is in my relationships and my life.
While this has been quite humbling, it has also been a wonderful opportunity for growth and awareness. There are lots of gifts within our judgments, if we’re willing to do the internal work necessary, take responsibility, and own our projections. Being judgmental can cause a great deal of pain, stress, and conflict in our lives and relationships, but if we’re conscious about it we can actually use our judgments as access to deeper connection with others and personal transformation within ourselves.
It’s important that we remember the difference between having value judgments and being judgmental. Value judgments are the relative placement of our discernment – based on our values and what’s truly important to us. We make value judgments all day long – what to eat, where to go, whom to talk to, what to do, and more. While we want to stay open to change, differences, and possibility – making value judgments is essential to life, health, growth, our own power, and more.
Being judgmental, on the other hand, has to do with us thinking that our opinions and values are “right” and judging others as “bad” or “wrong.” This may sound like semantics, but it’s not – it is a whole different paradigm. Being judgmental has to do with us arrogantly thinking that we’re better than others. The question is not whether being judgmental is good or bad, the deeper issue is that when we judge others like this we hurt them and ourselves in the process.
So why do we do it? There are several reasons we judge others:
– Competitiveness – We compete with others and want to win (or at least not let them win). When we don’t win (or we feel inferior or jealous of others), we tend to judge them, make them wrong, or try to find fault in them. In other words, we try to bring them down to our level so we can feel better about ourselves.
– Projection – We project our “stuff” onto other people. As author Debbie Ford says, “Whatever you can’t own, owns you.” In other words, we have a hard time with aspects and qualities in other people that we have not accepted within ourselves. For example, if we have not accepted our own arrogance, we will notice lots of arrogant people around us and have a very hard time with them (and with the quality of arrogance in general).
– Life is a mirror – Similar to projection, everything we see, experience, and notice about other people (and life) is a mirror back to us – the light and the dark. We erroneously think it’s about “them” and miss the gift of awareness it is for us. We will always bump up against stuff in others and in life that we need to deal with in ourselves – but it’s often much easier to judge than it is to deal.
Given that we all judge others, for these and other reasons, what are some of the gifts we can receive from our judgments, in addition to or instead of the pain and damage they can cause? Here are a few:
1) Self awareness – We learn so much from our judgments – places within ourselves we can love, accept, and make peace with. Our judgments can shine light on aspects within our own life where we can grow, expand, and let go…and can give us access to forgiveness and authentic confidence.
2) Expanded compassion – When we’re being judgmental, it can remind us about the importance of compassion – for ourselves and others. The things we judge in others (which are always things we judge in ourselves consciously or unconsciously) are simply things we don’t have much compassion for. We can use our judgments as opportunities to expand our capacity for compassion, one of the most powerful emotions we can express and experience in life.
3) Intimacy – Dealing with our judgments in a vulnerable, honest, and responsible way can actually bring us closer to the people in our life and create deeper intimacy. When we’re willing to confront our judgments (as well as other aspects of our shadow), we’re able to liberate ourselves from much of what holds us back from being intimate, vulnerable, and close with the people around us. It takes courage and commitment, but when we’re willing and able to engage at this level of authenticity with others, our relationships can transform in a wonderful way.
There’s nothing wrong with us for being judgmental, it’s a fundamental aspect of being human. And, while judgments can and do cause a great deal of difficulty and pain in our lives and relationships, especially if we stay unconscious about them, as we wake up and take responsibility for them, we can use our own judgmental tendency to actually create the kind of life and the kinds of relationships we truly want. There are deep gifts in our judgments, if we’re willing to do the work necessary and confront them and ourselves with ruthless compassion and vulnerable truth.
Whom do you judge? What’s underneath your judgment? What are some of the gifts of this? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.
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