From all of my studies and experience living and working, I believe that judgment has no place in a human psyche for anyone who wishes to become highly successful where as discernment is an absolutely imperative skill one needs to hone and develop continuously over time. In this blog, I will focus on judgment. I will define judgment and why I believe it undermines happiness in all of its forms. In a different blog, I'll focus on discernment and why it is mandatory in order to achieve lasting success.
Judgment is often defined as the ability to make decisions using reason and come to sensible conclusions. In a professional context, the person delivering the judgment is using their knowledge, expertise and skillset in determining a particular opinion or conclusion. Although this sounds benign and neutral, one problem I see is that a person's "reason" is subjective and often colored by early childhood conditioning and traumas. The problem in the latter definition is that the "professional" is presuming authority over the person or thing it is judging.
In my career as a licensed massage therapist, I have over 20,000 hands-on hours of experience as both a massage therapist working one on one with clients and as an instructor of massage students. As a coach, I've worked with hundreds of clients. Thus, over the years, I have listened to people intently and judgment comes up again and again. It is as ubiquitous as air. Here are a mere fraction of the tens of thousands of examples I've witnessed..
judgment as self-deprecation:
"I'm just not good enough."
"I beat myself up when I make a mistake, doesn't everyone do that?"
"I have dyslexia, there is no way I can learn that."
Judgment of Self using comparison:
"Martha has been in business for 20 years, there is no way I can compete only being 2 years out of school."
"I wish I looked like Martha"
"I'm too old to do that, that is for young ones."
Judgment of others:
"That person is bossy, you should consider not working with her."
"I fired that client, they are not a good person."
"Did you see his hair?" Ahhh Millennials!"
"They are too woke, they are too conservative, they are too.... or not enough ...."
Here is the thing about judgment... most people are convinced they are right, whether about oneself or others! It is so ubiquitous in our society that we often don't even question if our opinions are even factual or hardly notice that perhaps our opinions, our judgments about ourselves or the world at large, are even accurate. It doesn't make any difference to our brains. The second we judge with unchecked awareness, we deepen our biases, we deepen the color of our "rose color glasses" so to speak, and then whether right or wrong, we find evidence to confirm those biases and deepen our judgments thereby deepening our separation.
If you are a person who has a tendency to "beat yourself up," (aka. internal self judgment) I can guess with some measure of certainty that you will always find evidence for why you are "not good enough," and ignore the plentiful examples of how competent (fill in the blank) you are. Likewise, if you have an appetency for judging others (external judgment), you likely find all kinds of reasons to dislike other people. This propensity may justify your harsh criticisms and may explain why you are slow to praise or even notice external beauty in others or the world.
For most of us, these habits develop in early childhood based upon the people and environments we were raised. They develop when our very brains and neuro pathways are literally forming. Our initial judgments about ourselves and the world are often cemented by young adulthood. I believe it takes a great act of courage and regular hard work and discipline to unwind and rewire our automatic judgments. To even want to take them on and challenge the narrative seems miraculous in and of itself. So few people think judgment is a problem.
Over the years I have heard the argument, "if I don't judge myself, how will I ever find the motivation to change?" And to that I always answer with a story of two horses. The first horse was whipped by his owner in order to get the horse to move forward. The horse did indeed get the owner to his destination but the horse was not happy. The owner of the second horse loved the horse and also arrived at his intended destination. The loved horse moved forward with delight and ease. The first horse moved with fear and uncertainty yet still moved forward. It is the nature of the horse to work therefore, whether you whip a horse or love a horse, the horse will get the owner to its destination. The difference is only in the experience. I surmise that the nature of humans with the exception of psychopaths, are that of ease and peace. Has judgment ever given you ease or peace? It may give you a certain degree of motivation but at what cost?
But what if we actually ARE right? "I really do procrastinate... that person really is terrible...etc." So what.. what has judgment ever done positively in your life? Have you ever heard the expression, even if you are right, you can still be wrong? What is the purpose of your life? For me, it is to connect with others and to transform myself into the most loving and peaceful person I can be. No amount of harsh words or thoughts ever pushed that addenda forward for me. It only served to hijack my happiness, suck my energy, and isolate me from myself and others.
The Great Beings of the world over the ages tell us in one form or another that "we are all One" How do we have a hope of feeling this if we are judging ourselves or others? If I judge myself, I am separating myself from my self. "This part of me is good, that part of me is bad..." it fragments me. How can I feel wholeness and oneness if I feel fragmented? Likewise, if I am judging others, I make myself the expert over that which I judge. I have no idea why that person is the way they are but when I judge, I shut down curiosity and the desire to be connected with that person or thing, I begin to feel avoidant or confrontational. Further, when I judge another person or thing, I close my mind to a different perspective and nearly all curiosity disappears. Neither internal or external judgment connects. They only separate and I believe separation is disorganizing.
How then do people change this pervasive, all-consuming negative habit that is judgment? Like nearly every thing else in life; they must first recognize they are doing it and actually feel what it is costing them. They must feel the consequences of what judgment is doing to them. When a heart can feel negative consequences without judgment, the twang of discomfort can serve to motivate. The key is NOT to judge the judgment but instead feel gratitude that it was noticed. When one can notice, smile and allow oneself to think, "ahh I caught you." and then replace the judgment with a different thought, over time, they will overcome the habit. With time and practice, judgments of self and/or others simply will not arise with nearly as much frequency or velocity.
For the "Not Good Enoughs" of the world:
1. "OMG, did I really forget my keys AGAIN, what the f*** is wrong with me?!"
Judgment! Stop! Notice! Feel the judgment and its consequences.. something like, "for better or worse, I have this brain and hurting myself with judgment doesn't work it keeps me stuck," then smile (even a little one is okay), think instead, "I feel disappointed that I forgot my keys, I clearly need a better system, I wonder what that could be?" Curiosity opens the heart. Another option is, "well, at least it was only one time this week instead of four." Gratitude and acknowledgement for your efforts help you feel connected with yourself. Like it or not, you are stuck with yourself so you might as well roll up your sleeves and help yourself improve yourself. The only way to do that that I know of is to commit to yourself!
2. "OMG, there is no way I can get up and speak about what I do, Sally is so much better than me."
Self Judgment! Stop! Notice! Feel the judgment and its consequence... something like, "Yup, Sally sure can do it better than me but judging myself makes me even more disinterested in learning public speaking and I need it to be successful." then smile, feel grateful that you noticed, take a breath and get curious about Sally. What is she doing that you can learn from? Again, curiosity opens the heart. Sally being great at public speaking has no barring on what you can also achieve when you stop wasting your precious life force by judging and shutting down.
For the external judgers:
1. "Beep, beep, beep, get out of the fast lane you slow poke idiot!"
Judgment! Stop! Notice! Feel the judgment and its consequences.. something like, "dear gosh, that was some energy, judging that person disconnects me from life and I don't want to be disconnected from life anymore." Then smile, perhaps instead of judgment you can say, "I don't have all the information, I don't actually know why that person is going so slow, perhaps they just had a terrible accident and still have PTSD from it, I don't know but I don't want to think negatively of them." You can acknowledge the discomfort or annoyance while refraining from the judgment.
It is also helpful to notice why I might be judging. For me, I often get frustrated in traffic when I didn't leave enough time to get to my destination. In this regard, "that person" becomes a great scapegoat for my own lack of integrity around my time. If I had planned better, then I likely wouldn't be so irritated.
2. "That conservative is a Bible Thumper" Or "That damn liberal with blue hair is crazy."
Judgment! Stop! Notice! Feel the judgment and its consequences.. something like, "welp, even if I think my opinion is correct, it still disconnects me from that other person. They are part of the world like me and I want to feel compassion in my heart for them." Then smile and think of a wiser new thought, something like, "they likely think they are just as right as me, how funny? In another time, we might have been friends." Another option, (while smiling), is something like, "I don't agree, but they are human and humans are flawed and I certainly have my flaws too." See, again, there is curiosity in the first replacement thought. Curiosity is connective. In the second replacement thought, you become relatable with the other in only your tendency as a human to error.
It is also worth noting that one can disagree without becoming enraged or angry. If that is the experience when the urge to judge is there, it is worth looking inward. Why so angry? Why so enraged? What is the root cause of that? It is likely NOT in the present situation that is triggering the desire to judge.
On the other hand, discernment is a healing balm, it allows a person to have the ability to put one foot in front of the other. We need to discern if my right foot goes before my left or the other way around. It is necessary in making wise decisions, keeping ourselves safe, creating clear and health boundaries and so much more... to be continued....