Do you ever find yourself rolling your eyes over what someone does? Or shaking your head in judgment of their choices or the way they are? Or find yourself thinking or saying things like “You’re doing it all wrong!”, “He talks too much”, or “They’re way too indulgent with their kids.”
These kinds of gratuitous, self-righteous judgments, some would say, “are none of our business.”They have a certain “know-it-all-ness” to them; a “we know better” than others. Yet, little do we know or consider the reasons or contexts in which people act or make their decisions. Nor do we account for our personal biases and prejudices.
Moreover, such judgments can easily invoke resentment and push people away, and divert our attention from making better choices for ourselves. In many respects, judging is a diversionary tactic that distracts us from taking stock of our lives and improving our own shortcomings. And it doesn’t change how people believe or act in any meaningful sense. If anything, judging puts people on the defensive and their views become hardened.
In short, no good comes from it!
As a controller by nature, the judgment barrier has been an ongoing challenge for me to overcome. It’s such an ingrained habit, that much of the time I am not aware that I’m judging. It takes many forms; some overt, some subtle. Criticizing, admonishing, shaming, being smug, dismissive, and sarcastic are a few prevalent ways we judge. So, too, sneers and snide smiles and other body language convey judgment. I’ve done them all.
The thing is, many of my judgments have proved to be dead wrong. During my first year of law school, I harshly judged one of my classmates while waiting for the instructor to arrive. The classroom had rows of desks tiered upward toward the back on rising levels. My classmate suddenly jumped on top of his desk in the rear and boldly walked on top of desks to the front of the room.
Most classmates laughed loudly. Not me. I was very angry. I thought, “What a jerk and a-hole. All he wants is attention.” I didn’t want to have anything to do with him after that.
Five years after we graduated law school this “jerk” became my most trusted friend and later was the best man at my wedding! He did continue to draw a lot of attention, though. He selflessly served as the Public Defender of Los Angeles County for over fifteen years, supervising over 700 attorneys, and was widely recognized for his efforts in helping reform state and national criminal justice systems.
So I guess I misjudged! And the irony of it is not lost on me: his last name was Judge. I miss him dearly.
So, I often ask myself why do I continue to judge so much? What is my motive? Does it make me feel better or superior in some way? Maybe for a short moment, but it’s a sure sign of my lack of humility. I also ponder what purpose it serves. Do I think it will change or help the other person in some way? Sometimes I do, but it rarely does, if at all. And no one’s ever thanked me for my judgments, that’s for sure!
It has also occurred to me that my judging may be an indication of some shortcoming in myself. Concerning the incident with my law school classmate, for example, I was a very reserved, even shy person. Perhaps seeing someone be so bold, carefree, and “out there” accentuated my own insecurities.
Above all, I believe to judge less, we need to be more accepting. When we accept people and things as they are, there is little need for us to judge them.
Let’s begin the new year by letting go of judging!
Here are a few Inquiries and Reflections that can help you do that:
Make note of your judgments for a day, or even half a day. Be sure to include the silent ones that you keep to yourself.
What feelings or beliefs are behind your judgments? Do they serve any useful purpose?
How often do you judge yourself? What do you gain by it? Are they the same kinds of things that you judge others by?
In the meantime, Let It Go—and Accept “What Is!”
*Part of this post was taken from my upcoming book, “The Wave: Navigating Life’s Currents.” Please leave your email address at [email protected] to receive special discount pricing when the book is published.
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