“It’s very easy to judge. It’s much more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience and a willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods.” ~Doe Zantamata
In the past, judgments kept me safe. They reassured me that I had worth. That I was right. That I was good. I believed I knew the “right” way to live.
I felt I could clearly see the truth of matters. I didn’t understand why others weren’t always able to grasp the truth that I saw. However, the real truth was that my inner world was full of turmoil.
Since adolescence, I went about my day with a certain level of tension in my chest. It was almost imperceptible, but always there. I felt I was constantly fighting the world, the universe. I tried to control it, to mold it to the way I saw things. I judged anyone who didn’t follow my vision of right and wrong.
I spent a lot of time arguing and judging. Politics, religion, even school board meetings—they all elicited strong judgments from me. Judging others felt OH SO GOOD for a minute. That’s the kicker. Inevitably, though, the negative energy of the judgments left me feeling irritated or angry.
Why was I judging so much? Because I believed that missteps should be punished. My judgments were just that. I thought punishments were critical to learning. To growing.
The reality was that the person I was judging was mostly unaware of my judgy thoughts. My judgments weren’t resulting in positive change. When I sat down and actually thought about what punishments accomplish, I realized that no one needs to be punished in order to change. I saw that I was operating from a false “truth.”
What I hadn’t understood was that the only person I was punishing when I judged was myself. I was poisoning my body, my mind, even my soul, with anger.
What is clear to me now is that when I judge, I create division. When I judge someone, I am saying “I’m here and you’re over there.” I’m thinking, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” The problem is—they are thinking the same thing!
I experienced the wisdom of the introductory quote in what turned out to be a pivotal moment in my spiritual journey.
I was a witness to an unpleasant argument about vaccines between two friends. I started to feel the tension in my chest increase. I began to judge and felt the need to jump in and share my “right view” with them.
Then I centered. I became still. And I saw two moms who were scared. Two moms who loved their children. Two moms who were just trying to do their best. The tension fell away. I stopped judging and felt compassion for my two friends instead.
My inner world changed. The tension was replaced with expansion. I felt peaceful. I felt love.
There is a concept in Buddhism called “the right view.” The “right view” is often described as the perspective that doesn’t cause suffering. I’ve also heard it described as “all views, or none at all.”
I’ve learned that we filter all external information through our own personal experiences, knowledge, and traumas before coming to a conclusion. Our inner world and patterns determine our reactions. This is why we can all receive the same information and still come to different conclusions. None are right, and none are wrong. They are just different paths.
In the past, I would have tried to convince you that my path was right. I wouldn’t allow you to be who you were. I wanted you to be who I wished you to be. I would have judged you.
I don’t know about you, but when someone judges or shames me, I don’t change. I dig my feet in. It’s not a very effective communication technique.
Instead of judging, if we try to understand each other and allow each other to be who we are, we foster acceptance rather than division. We have compassion rather than judgment and our inner world changes. We feel an inner peace within.
It’s important to note that not judging someone doesn’t mean you condone what they’re doing. It also doesn’t change the consequences of their actions. It just allows you to keep your inner world peaceful.
So, how did I get here?
First, I learned to meditate and find that place of stillness within me.
Second, I learned how to find that place of stillness with my eyes open. These first two steps allowed me to create a space between an event and my emotions. This moment (or space) allowed me to respond rather than react. In this moment, the truth will often become clear.
Third, I practiced catching myself judging. I would take a moment and hold the person in compassion instead. I would try to understand them. I would allow them to be who they are rather than who I wished.
Fourth, I saw that punishments don’t work. Judging others or ourselves doesn’t facilitate growth. It creates tension and division.
Finally, I discovered that judging ties you to the past. To past patterns, reactions, and impressions. I’m judging based on my personal past experiences. I learned to let go and to forgive things in my past. I knew if I didn’t, nothing would change.
The result was inner peace. My chest doesn’t feel tight anymore. In fact, it feels like there is an open, shiny jewel in place of the tension. Love flows through me daily. I see the bliss of the present moment. I spend less and less time in the past.
When someone says something hurtful to me now, I try to pause and center. I bless them. I know when people are suffering that suffering often spills out onto others. I hold them in compassion. I understand that they are doing the best they can.
I’m also not perfect. I do still catch myself judging. I am also doing the best that I can.
I challenge you to try leading with compassion. First, compassion for yourself. We are all learning and growing. Then compassion for each other. See what happens to your inner world.
It is easy to judge; it’s much harder to try and understand.