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“People hasten to judge in order not to be judged themselves.” -Albert Camus
I know, it’s almost an innate reflex, or at least it feels like we were born with the instant response to judge. In actuality, judging is a learned behavior. We aren’t aware of what society believes is acceptable or unacceptable until those around us tell us or model what should and should not be liked. No one is born a racist, a bigot or a sexist; it is a learned behavior. What good and empowering news, no?
So if we can learn how to judge, we can also teach ourselves how to refrain from it as well. And if we can find the discipline to do so, we will actually create a more tranquil, more fulfilling life for ourselves and those we chose to spend our time with.
Now, I am by no means innocent of being judgmental. The perfectionist that I am is judgmental of my own behavior as well as those close to me, so it is a constant conscious effort to watch my thoughts, my words and the tone in which I speak. But I too, as you may have been as well, have been on the receiving end of judgment that is based on something I have absolutely no control over or something that is completely bias and baseless. It doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy when such judgment is thrown our way. And it is this feeling that often prompts us to be judgmental in return, just as Camus’ above quote suggests.
Now let’s not confuse being observant with being judgmental. While both involve taking in the environment around us – which is a vital survival tool as well as tool for success to get along in the world, the two terms separate the moment we place a comparison of what should and shouldn’t be. In other words, when we place value on one way being better than another, we are being judgmental rather than observant for the sake of gathering information. So why do we venture down the road of judgment so readily?
1. To gain approval
When we don’t feel accepted by those who we wish to be accepted by, or if we don’t approve of ourselves based on the standards we are trying to adhere to concocted by society, we are quick to point out those who also aren’t up to par. In doing so, we are trying to tell ourselves and those around us, “See me, I’m at least better than that guy.” But in reality, we just look smaller.
2. To boost confidence/self-esteem
Whether you make a verbal judgment to someone outloud or do so in your head, when you make a judgment of someone else’s behavior, clothing or lifestyle, you are trying to convince yourself that the life you are living is okay. Why? Because you aren’t convinced that it is or that you are. News alert – you are okay just as you are. The sooner you believe that, the more peaceful your life will become.
3. To feel “normal”
As a high school teacher, it is a common observation, but it’s one that doesn’t necessarily dissolve with graduation, many people judge, bully and tease others because they want to prove that there is someone more “abnormal” than they are and that they are better in some way. The funny truth is, what is normal but a definition we accept for being our true selves, and if we are becoming someone who we aren’t, how normal is that? Wanting to feel “normal” is a need for some sort of social connection. And often during certain times of our lives, the social connection that will provide acceptance for us to be ourselves isn’t always available which means we must accept ourselves and be our best company.
When we realize that the act of judging is more of a reflection of our own insecurities and lack of inner strength to find comfort in our own skin, hopefully we can all begin the process of discovering so many wonderful gifts a life free of judgment can bring.
When we stop looking outward for something to lash out at, we are forced to look inward. And when we come to terms with who we are, what we wish to be, do and become, and then get about the business of doing it, we have less time to worry about judging because we’ve decided to live the life we’ve dreamed of. And why would you want to waste your time doing anything else?
2. Burdens are lifted, Freedom is Found
“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” – The Scarlet Letter
I’ve always loved this particular line by Nathaniel Hawthorne. So much truth to letting go of what others think and following behaviors and expectations that no longer serve us as we pursue a life of fulfillment and tranquility. Choosing to be judgmental is a burden. It is a tremendous weight that is freeing when finally let go. Freedom that opens our hearts, eyes and minds to creative ideas and new adventures that can bring amazing experiences and moments to forever savor.
3. Broaden Perspective
Choosing to be judgmental narrows our vantage point and closes down avenues of growth, opportunity and amazing experiences. When we refuse to be judgmental, we broaden the possibilities of how we can achieve our dreams. We may not want to live as people of another culture or faith, but we can appreciate the differences and try to understand them, potentially enriching how we appreciate the life we have chosen to live.
4. Less hurt, less pain inflicted, less suffering
On both sides of the street, those doing the judging and those being judged, if less of it is occurring, more compassion, more love, more kindness is extended, and there is never enough of such wonderful gifts in our world. Instead of jumping to conclusions, pause, put yourself in someone else’s shoes and refrain from judgment. We may never have done what someone else might have done, but then again, we may not have grown up or experienced what they have gone through.
5. Strengthen Social Connections
Now there will always be people who are difficult to be around or who we shouldn’t be around as they don’t bring out the best in ourselves; however, when we have the choice to be around the people we’d prefer, respect the differences, embrace the differences, don’t make snide comments, hurtful judgments or use negative tones when commenting on their latest achievement or life choice. If we truly love someone, accept them, as we would want them to for us. When people feel they can be themselves around us, it is amazing what relationships can blossom.
6. New Ideas Can Grow
If both parties who perhaps come to the table with differing ideas choose to listen and consider the reasons for other ideas without jumping to judgment, amazing collaborations can materialize. And when both parties come to the table without judgment, healthy communication is the vehicle that allows these ideas will occur.
As you can see, there are many benefits to be enjoyed when we choose to refrain from judgment. Whether the person we were judging hears our comments or not, it actually is more damaging to the person judging as they are wasting time, thought and energy on a useless activity. While this won’t be an easy habit to break, it will be well worth your efforts, and the example you set for those around you will set a positive wheel in motion, and who knows where or if it will stop. What a gift!
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