Here is the situation: something is going on and you have a strong, opposing opinion. We’ve all been there. For example:
■ Your child has shared a life plan they have, that to your mind will cause only suffering for them, and ultimately, for you.
■ Your work colleague has a new purchase planned that will not only NOT solve the problem it’s meant to, but cost more and create far more problems.
■ You have a moral dilemma with something someone close to you is doing and they refuse to see any perspective other than their own.
Suddenly, you have the overwhelming need to step in. You have a burning desire to say something, loudly and immediately! So you do. You express to your child that “they shouldn’t do that.” You tell your work colleague that their purchase is “irresponsible.” You discourage your friend from doing what they are doing and from making the choices they are making.
While you may think that you are helping, all you’re really doing is judging. I can almost hear your rebuttal: “I’m not judging, I’m just trying to help!”
But is what you’re saying actually helpful? And are you coming from a place of true care? When your child comes to you with a big idea for a life plan and you instantly oppose them, it’s likely going to do nothing but make them want to do it more. If you express to your colleague that their decisions are irresponsible, they’re not going to leave that conversation feeling good and furthermore, they’re not going to include or support you in the future. If you advise someone close to you on their life choices by imposing your own morals on to them, you’re only going to be damaging the friendship.
Instead of making your judgments known and saying something mean under the guise of “meaning well,” I’d like to invite you to think about how many kind and supportive things you’ve said to the people around you lately. Especially those you may have opposed.
Let’s try turning it around: has there ever been a time in your life when you excitedly shared something, an idea or a decision, with someone only to have them say something mean or inconsiderate back to you?
My guess is you probably have. We have all had that experience. We’ve all been on the receiving end of judgment. It seems that this would make it easier for us to notice when we’re doing it, but it doesn’t because we think we’re helping under the banner of “tough love.” I love the work of author Brene Brown and she has an interesting thing to say about this exact facet of judgment:
“…research tells us that we judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived shaming deficiency.”
Where have you passed judgment recently? Where have you offered advice recently? Where have you felt an overwhelming push to “say something” recently?
Kabbalists explain that where I place my consciousness is what stays with me. When I look at another person and see darkness, I awaken that darkness within myself. Similar to what Brene Brown is saying, when we place a judgment on another it is because there is something that we recognize within ourselves – that person, like a mirror, can reveal something that we are unwilling or perhaps unable to see, but now we can. When we bring that awareness to our judgments, we see that what we are actually doing is trying to repair something within ourselves.
This principle can be understood perfectly as the driving force behind a bully. Whether this is a high school teen bullying the kid that’s smaller than him or a bully in the workplace who is constantly undermining their talented colleague, a bully thrives on the relentless judgment of others. The extent of their bullying will always be in direct proportion to how they truly feel about themselves. The kid who picks on the student that is smaller than him likely feels powerless and afraid himself. The co-worker that is constantly making fun of their colleague’s ideas is likely masking their own shame around not being creative enough. Trust me, where there is a bully there is someone who dislikes themselves immensely because for the bully the emotional chaos is “feeling significant.” By putting other people down they have a greater sense of false self-worth.
And this is what makes the practice of speaking kindly to others so powerful. Even those who seem to not deserve it (which is, I have to say, also a judgment.) Really think about how often you say something nice, supportive, or encouraging to the people around you. It is probably in equal measure to how often you speak positively to yourself. By enacting a practice of saying something kind to people you meet and those you interact with on a daily basis, you are not only sharing your Light, but you are exponentially diffusing your judgments of others and, therefore, of yourself.
Conversely, if you are being self-critical and judging yourself, then you can bet that is going to reflect outwards on the people around you. So, let the judgments go. Show love to yourself and share that loving kindness with as many people as possible.
Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t offer advice or express opinions. In fact, words that you use in a judgment are often very similar to the words you use when you are coming from a place of genuine care. It all just comes down to your consciousness.
Judgments block energy and hold negative patterns in place. They hinder our ability for vulnerability and they drive disconnection. A judgment will never bring about positive change and it will never create closeness or healing. It doesn’t serve anyone in any way. Kindness, on the other hand, has the ability to change a person’s day. And one tiny change in someone’s day can become big change in their lives. Offered on a daily basis, kindness creates a ripple effect that has the power to change the world.
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Repeat this mantra to yourself every morning: I release all judgments I place on myself and others. Then make a point to say and do at least one kind thing for as many people as possible each day.