“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, The Cost of Discipleship
Judging others is something we all do in the course of a day, and if we say we don’t we are big, fat, liars. Much of it is somewhat unconsciously done. As we walk through the grocery store thoughts run through our heads. “Wow, that shirt is awful.” “Boy, that’s one big person.” “She sure looks like a grump.” On it goes right up to the check out line, where we begin to judge the contents of the shopping cart of the person in front of us, as well as their payment method. This goes on all day long, little and big judgements made about people, what they do, what they say, how they act, and what the look like. Maybe you are not that bad. Maybe you are more inclined to see the people who smile at you, or notice those who look especially pretty, or maybe you are like me, off in my own little world of “get it done and get out of here.” Whatever the case, we all judge to varying degrees, and it is rarely beneficial to us, or to the person we are judging.
However, it is hard to even begin to enter into the topic of judging without becoming judgmental. “That person said a hateful thing. That is wrong. That person is nasty.” I said that just last night, in my head. A person who doesn’t know me made some insulting comments, judged me based on information she is being spoon fed, some of it true enough, much of it not. Because the comments hurt, I judged her as a bad person, and I do not know her personally. Is she a bad person? I don’t know. How could I? Do I like, or condone, her behavior? No, I do not. The behavior and the actions go completely against my personal beliefs of what is right, and her actions are less than attractive, in my opinion. But, that is just my opinion. I do not get to be the judge. I must answer to a higher authority, God, who tells me that I do not know her past, or her hurts, or her insecurities, and even if I did, I would still have no right to judge her. God tells me to turn the other cheek, stop looking, forgive, and move on. Easier said than done, of course, but doable.
Dorothy Parker said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.” That’s not how I roll. I do not enjoy disliking others, bad mouthing others, or diminishing others so I can feel better about myself. Does that mean I have never done any of those thing? Heck no! I am guilty as charged. I am very human, too. The greater portion of my life is filled with wonderful, kind, caring, loving individuals who roll like I do. Yet, human nature, flawed as it is, will generally cause me focus on the one or two meanies in my life, and forget all about the lovely people and things all around me. That is a backwards way of living, and changing that is something I work on every day.
That work requires taking a thought, or feeling—a judgement—and turning it around to something positive. It changes, “That person is just plain nasty,” to “That person must really be hurting/be insecure/feel threatened.” Those thought changes opens the mind to compassion. We do not need to like the comments, behaviors, or even the person, but viewing them with compassion rather than judging and attacking right back is the healthier, kinder choice, for ourselves, and for them. It is saying to yourself, and the world, “I may disagree with you, but I am pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” to borrow a line from Jon Stewart. If you cannot change your thoughts from ones of judgement and condemnation, then the least you can do is turn and walk away in kindness.
We do reap what we sow. The law of attraction is real. The more we judge harshly, respond to judgments with revenge, or insult and degrade people to elevate ourselves, the more of that same sort of thing we will get coming back at us in our own lives. As people say these days, “Haters are gonna hate.” I suppose that is true enough, but I have a choice to make for myself, and that is not to be a hater. The Bible says we can sow blessings or curses with our words. In this age of the internet, we can do the same with our fingers, faceless behind a computer screen. This also allows us the convenience of judging people we do not even know. Do not get sucked into it all. It is a trap that will effectively take your eyes off of yourself, and your own areas that need attention, while you focus on someone else and their flaws. Go find the goodness inside of you, and in others, instead.
What if someone is judging you right now–hurting you, insulting you, demeaning you right now? Turn away, walk away, calm yourself and reframe your thoughts, if you can. Count your blessings. Ask yourself if the person’s judgment is truly hurting you, or just hurting your pride, with no real damage done to how the important people in your life perceive you. Step outside and look at the splendor all around you. Release, relax, forgive, and remember that, in the end, you are not the final authority on anyone, or anything, but yourself. In the end, it is all between you and God. Do all you can to maintain your integrity. It is okay to hate evil, but the evil and the person are usually two separate things.
This one, too, this topic of judging, or stopping the judging, take a lot of work, yet again. I know, I know…;-) I am working at it right along with you. I am working at the judging, and forgiving, and moving on. Today, turn towards the beauty in the world. Right outside my front door is the most gorgeous day. The sun is shining. The trees are the most vibrant spring green, and about ten steps from my front door is a breath taking patch of wild violets. That is where I am going now. I am stepping towards the things that can truly be judged as beautiful.