I have grappled with understanding the concept of judgment for a long time. One of the reasons is that my experience includes negative feelings around being judged. You know, when others are judgmental– blaming, critical, rejecting, unkind.
This, coupled with the fact that I was taught to be polite and a good girl, made me reluctant to ever judge (or admit that I was judging) someone else out loud. The problem with this is that in an effort not to judge I was masking the truth. The truth about how I really feel, what I really think.
Even worse, I had shame about making a judgment. And I judged myself for judging someone else– talk about crazy making.
I have gained some freedom in accepting and understanding that judgments are an essential part of our everyday existence. In fact, judgment can make our lives better by compelling us to change, grow, or strive to change.
I have a long time friend, who I met in college, who was always saying mean comments following it up with, But it’s the truth! She happened to have five brothers, so she grew up having to be tough in the face of their frequent teasing and harassment. I didn’t always think she was kind but I could count on her to tell the truth…
One day about 17 years ago she said to me: You know, you complain waaaay too much. You should be more grateful for what you have. Things could always be worse. Stop whining. I didn’t like it when she said it. My ego was hurt. Yet, it changed who I was and how I related to the world. And I am grateful.
What felt to me like a negative judgment was a truth I needed to hear. Eventually accepting this truth about my behavior led me to greater happiness and freedom. I became more reflective of my own thought patterns and began to more consciously practice gratitude.
Looking back, I can hold my 21 year old self with the compassion I could not readily offer then. I can accept where I was and even understand some of my family history and how I got there.
I eventually encountered the concept of discernment and became more comfortable with judgment as a fact of life. We must constantly discern, decide, categorize, prioritize– is this not judgment? So what’s the problem?
The problem is when we are judgmental. The problem is the negative charge that is too often attached to a judgment. It’s the lack of acceptance. It’s the shaming. It’s the you are unacceptable, ugly, unworthy, unintelligent, just plain wrong.
Being judgmental is the underlying expectation that you should be different than how you are right now. It’s based on the assumption that being imperfect means being inadequate and unlovable. Being judgmental involves blaming another person for not being what you want or need. Or worse, blaming someone for igniting feelings in you that you’d much rather avoid.
Judgment need not be shaming or oppressive. Difficult, yes. But when looked at with curiosity and kindness judgment can be a gateway to an important truth.
- See if you can discern when you or others are making a judgment versus being judgmental.
- What truths might lie in the judgments you or others make?
- How can you shift from being judgmental to making an honest judgement?