I once was a master at judging people.
I would observe behaviors such as smoking or obesity or disorganization or excessive tardiness or malicious gossiping or slovenly dress and I immediately came to conclusions about the person’s character.
I would tell myself I had no choice, really. It was right there to behold, right smack in front of me, as plain as the nose on my face. How could I not judge?
It took a long time but I finally realized that I was zipping through a three-stage process so fast that I was falsely assuming it was just one stage.
The three stages are 1) observation 2) evaluation and 3) judgment/conclusion.
1. Yes, I did observe things in my immediate surroundings and to a certain extent that was inevitable. While I might choose where I focus my attention (two people look out the same window: one sees a muddy field, another sees the starry sky above), I hope I am aware of most elements in my field of view, that I always will choose to have good situational awareness. Yes, I choose to observe.
2. The next step is much more of a choice than the first. I can choose to evaluate what I observe. I observe a person smoking. I evaluate that action is not a healthy action, indeed quite the opposite.
3. The third and final step involves even more free will, an even more obvious choice. I can choose to judge:
– that person lacks self discipline
– that person lacks moral fiber
– that person lacks strength of character.
I’ve learned that judging others rarely serves me or them, that it usually does not make the world a better place. Indeed, it often has the negative consequence of separating me emotionally from those I’m choosing to judge, making it more challenging to reach out to them, to influence them, to craft a mutually acceptable solution, to help in any meaningful way.
Frequently it seems the primary motivation in judging others as wanting in some way is to award ourselves some demented sense of moral superiority. Which in turn, is pretty convincing evidence of the lack thereof.
Attacking, judging, or criticizing others is typically just an emotional means of attempting to affirm ourselves. But in reality, it just reveals our sense of inadequacy. If I am truly secure and centered in my value system, I will feel no need to judge or condemn others to reinforce my beliefs.
While in retrospect it seems simple and obvious, coming to a full realization of the process, teasing out the hidden linkages that my thoughts followed in my “rush to judgment,” took quite a while.
The awareness of the choice I have to refrain from judgment has brought me incredible peace of mind and much happiness.