Going out on a limb here, I’m going to posit that when most of us wake up in the morning, we don’t open our eyes and decide that today would be a perfect day for beating ourselves up for our past mistakes, focusing on shortcomings in our character, and picking apart everything wrong in our relationships, homes, jobs, or even our bodies. “Today, I am going to make it my mission to judge my friends/ children/ partner/ co-worker for being inept/ unsupportive/ selfish/ stupid,” said no one, ever (I hope.)
Those thoughts are insidious. Sneaky. And for most of us, even before we’ve finished our morning coffee, we’ve identified at least one thing or person in our lives we find lacking. While it’s a fine line between discernment and judgment, all too often, we stray too far afield to purely judging. Especially this month.
We have just entered the month of Scorpio, which is one of the only months of the year lacking in kabbalistic holidays. For many people, this month can feel dark—fraught with emotional upheaval, challenges, and judgment. But just as light cannot exist without darkness, inherent in this month is vast potential to turn things around. It is a month made for renaissance. Full of hope. Ripe for change. It’s about doing and being all that you have the potential to do and become.
But we can’t make it there while we’re busy making judgments. Judgments block energy and hold negative patterns in place.
“The more one judges, the less one loves.” ~ Honore de Balzac.
In fact, the more we judge, the more we are judged. The more we judge ourselves, the more we will judge others. To counteract the tendency to judge, we need to practice kindness, all the time, but in this month especially. We start by being kinder to ourselves, and then that inevitably makes us kinder to others. In fact, the more kindness we practice, the more kindness we invite into our lives.
I study and write about a lot of ideas on a variety of topics. But I seem to always find myself coming back to these 2 ideas: change and kindness. My first book, Fear Is Not an Option, is about understanding fear and changing how we respond to it. My second book, Rethink Love, covered everything from knowing yourself and what you love, to fighting, to friendship, but the common themes seemed to always come back to kindness—being kind to yourself and your partner. Rethink Love also invites readers to change the way they think about love, what love is, expectations around what love is meant to provide, and what love demands we give.
Change & Kindness.
To become kinder, we quiet our desire to receive for ourselves only and increase our desire to receive for the sake of sharing with others. It’s not always necessary to change what we want, but why we want things.
To change our health, thoughts, relationships, and habits often begins with an intention of being kinder. In the case of our health and habits, we might begin with an intention of being kinder to ourselves. Relationships are transformed by being kinder to others.
Change and kindness are inextricably linked, and they are the very antithesis of judgment.
1. Eradicate judgment by replacing it with kindness. Check.
2. Live up to your potential and manifest positive change.
That sounds daunting and like a pretty tall order to live up to one’s potential. But what does that even mean?
For me, it means striving to reach the capacity of my strength, will, and intellect to be the best version of myself. What I find interesting is how far the bar continues to move. Where I am today was perhaps the totality of my potential ten years ago, but because of everything I’ve done and who I’ve become in that process, my potential has grown to match it. So, perhaps it is not so much about meeting your potential, because I don’t think anyone ever does. Rather, it’s about pushing the boundaries of what you think you are capable of. And here’s a kabbalistic secret: you are capable of so much more than you can imagine.
Striving to reach the pinnacle of what you are capable of achieving, learning, and sharing sounds like a worthwhile goal. Yet, how much thought do we give it, day-to-day? Honestly, reaching my potential isn’t always something that gets much attention. For many, the idea is almost laughable, as they consider all the things they could do but with what time? They contemplate all the effort it would entail and discard the thought. We’re doing a pretty good job right now, after all. Sure, we could do more, but if we’re grading on a curve, most of us think where we are now is pretty respectable. It’s easy to let ourselves off the hook.
Allow me to reframe the issue. By not making an honest effort toward our potential, we are stealing from the world. As an example, if we have the potential to help five people in this lifetime and we only help three, we have stolen the help of the other two. Rav Isaac Luria explains further that for every talent and opportunity we do not make use of, it is tallied on a list of what we will owe. In essence, every time we fail to strive for the capacity of our potential, we are thieves. Those are pretty strong words, and rightfully so, if they wake us up to the idea that reaching our potential isn’t a nice thing to do if we have time, it’s an imperative.
Each one of us has come to this world with a unique purpose that only we can do. If we don’t do our work, literally no one else can do it for us. Everything we do matters. Everything we don’t do matters. We have to change the way we view our own potential.
I challenge you every day for the next 30 days to push the limits of your capabilities. Can you be kinder?
Can you be more thoughtful?
Can you be more present and engaged?
Can you put more effort into a project or goal?
Can you learn more?
Can you be more?
Yes. Yes, we all can.