The world is full of judging.
We judge our situations so that we can decide if they’re safe. We judge acts to determine if they are crimes. We judge relationships to see if they are healthy for us.
Every single decision we make is based on a judgement of some sort.
We buy a specific car because we judge it to to fit with our required safety/economical/vanity/etc categories. We choose to read a book because we judge it to be a likely candidate to entertain us.
But we also judge others to be wrong, and ourselves to be right, even when a clear right/wrong line isn’t established. We judge others based on their behavior, their choices, their actions. And we also judge them based on their income, their sex, their nationality, their religion. We, as a society, as a whole, do this.
Judging is everywhere, and dare I say, necessary. But before you judge me for that statement, let me elaborate.
Though that idea may seem to clash with the ideas behind Un-Copied Life, like individuality and acceptance, I maintain that the two sides aren’t mutually exclusive.
While judgement does seem to be the nemesis of acceptance, and it certainly can be, I do feel that we can find a healthy balance between the two.
And I’ll show you how, but first I want to look at some of the reasons we judge.
1. We judge for safety/mechanical/logical reasons.
These reasons are the absolutely necessary ones. An example from above would be buying a car. We judge it to fit our requirements of what we need and want in a car. Or judging a situation to be physically safe. Or judging a cliff too dangerous to stand on. Judging crimes would also fall into this category. Despite the many failures of our judicial system, they are indeed necessary. Though these types are important, they will not be the main focus of this post.
2. We want to establish a difference between ourselves and the other party.
When we see something we disagree with, the desire to separate ourselves from it is in our nature. And believe it or not, it actually goes back to “fitting in”. We draw back from this thing we disagree with, sidling up with our beliefs and those who agree with us. Strength in numbers, after all. And we even try to use those numbers as “proof” that we’re right.
Separation, in and of itself, isn’t all that bad. The problem arises when we get into “Right/Wrong” mode. We start throwing insults, either directly or through veiled insinuations, and what happens is everyone winds up stressed and feeling alienated.
3. We see negative qualities of ourselves in someone else, but don’t want to admit it.
Have you ever gone on a diet? You’re sitting there at work, it’s lunchtime and you’re munching away on your third tasteless salad of the week. You look over and see the “chubby girl” chowing down a slice of pizza. You immediately jump to thoughts of how horrible she is and how great you are because, “Hey, I’m the one eating the salad!” Except, you’d almost be willing to give your right kidney for a slice of that pizza right now.
The truth is that you’re resentful of your diet, but rather than admit it, you project your negative feelings onto someone else, to make you feel better.
So, what do we do about it?
How do we reconcile our nature to judge with our need to be a better, more caring person?
1. Consider what you may not know.
In the lunch break/pizza scenario above, what you didn’t know is that the “chubby girl” is busting her butt to lose weight. She has woken up an hour early every day to exercise for the last 3 months and has managed to lose 25 lbs. And that’s the first slice of pizza she’s eaten in six months.
Consider the quote:
“We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions”
— Ian Percy
We can’t know everything about someone. We don’t know what goes on in their heads and we don’t know why the make the decisions they do.
We don’t know the history that brought them to the moment to make a choice in their life. So, how can we justify judging them based solely on what we see or hear?
Consider how it makes you feel when someone incorrectly judges you? Don’t you want the chance to defend yourself?
Wouldn’t it be easier to skip the judgement altogether?
2. Practice acceptance.
Practice building your acceptance muscle. Acceptance is the way to merge two opposing ideas. Accept that the other person is different. They have their own history, their own goals, and their own desires.
There is no right and wrong. There is no better or worse. There is only what is. And it isn’t up to you to change that person to your way of thinking.
“It’s not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.”
― Leo Tolstoy
And as I’ve said before, acceptance doesn’t mean you agree with the other person, it simply means that you recognize that what is best for one, isn’t automatically what is best for all.
3. Be willing to learn
Be open to learning about yourself and about others. If something bothers you, find out why. Read, ask questions (politely!), do what you have to in order to learn. Often, you’ll find that your differences aren’t as clear-cut as you think they are.
Be open to seeing the other side of the argument. Of course, this is sometimes much harder in practice than in theory. Know that. Don’t shy away from what you don’t know because it will be difficult.
“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Image courtesy of David Goehring