I judge. Some might say I am even an expert in the art of judgement. Sometimes I do it really well. I suspect you might be quite good at it too.
Perhaps, however, you are prone to preach – “you must not judge.” If that is true, then pat yourself on the back, because you have completely mastered the art of judgement and have probably added in its partner in crime, hypocrisy. In my experience, the people who preach the loudest on this topic tend to be the worst offenders.
The Judgement Expert
A few years ago, I became fast friends with a woman I met in a healing group. Our friendship crashed and burned quickly after she verbally attacked me for answering a direct question with my honest opinion. The incident took place right before a meditation class – oh the irony. That former friend would repeat, “We shouldn’t judge” so regularly that it lost all meaning. She would even return to it in between rants about how she would never date a “fat person” because they were obviously lazy, or how a mutual friend was so rude because she was too busy to spend time with us. I came to realize that what she was really saying is what most of us generally feel, “don’t judge ME!”
Come On, Let’s Admit It
Truth is we all judge one another. I’m sorry if that is a harsh reality for you, but it is so much better to be honest. In this age of social media, opinions are rampant, and at the heart of those opinions and beliefs is that dirty little word – judgement. I have heard it called by different labels, “discernment, critique, assessment.” They all represent essentially the same thing.
The Definition of Judgement
So, what does judgement actually mean?
Judgement –is the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/judgment
Hmmm, that doesn’t sound so bad does it? I like to be wise and show good sense. This very definition points to the heart of why it has become such a default for me, because the times I have tried valiantly to be non-judgmental I have always ended up getting manipulated and walked on by those who I was trying to accept from a purely neutral point of view.
Can I (We) Judge Less?
Trying to curb my judgmental tendencies has plagued me for years. A girlfriend and I have talked about it candidly, labeling it as our most prominent life lesson. Some struggle with patience, others with time management or self-awareness, for both of us recovering perfectionists, judgement is our Achilles heel. I don’t want to judge. I REALLY, REALLY don’t. I know that a truly peaceful mind is free from that critical act. But, I often find myself stuck in the uncomfortable position of feeling like I have something of value to share, an opinion or advice – something that I really believe in my heart will help the other person. So how do I share it without sounding like Ms. Judgie Judgenstein? It always feels like such an impossible task.
Judgement’s Positive Side
Expressing opinions in a neutral manner that is still infused with love and compassion for me is an epic challenge. I was once tasked with grading students’ essays using a non-judgmental approach. In every attempt I found myself saying something positive or complimentary. What the students didn’t realize is that I would often stare at their work for over an hour trying to articulate a neutral response that sounded authentic and human, while still giving them some sense as to how their writing moved me. It was so impossible for me that I had to leave that job deciding that a judgement-free response took away from the spirited, enthusiastic manner in which I want to live. We forget that judgement takes many forms. Most of us seek to be praised and complimented, even though such positive judgement is a slippery slope that keeps us from finding the true happiness and confidence that comes from within.
What Does Non-Judgement Look Like?
I suspect that as in all things, being non-judgmental is all about balance. However, there are so few models of this balanced state. In fact, over the course of my entire life I can count on one hand the number of people who have always made me feel accepted without review, and interestingly, they were all rather soft-spoken women (sadly most have passed on). So, if I were to outline what being non-judgmental looks like I would say it is:
- Unselfish and lacking of ego;
- Compassionate and empathic, with a true ability to put oneself in the shoes of the other person;
- More prone to listening than talking;
- Able to maintain true acceptance for all points of view; and
- Capable of disengaging from those who are pushing their buttons.
This page on Non-Judgement from InnerPeaceNow.com seems to sum it up nicely.
I’m not sure I will ever be totally free from both passing and receiving judgement, but I won’t stop trying.
What do you think it looks (and or feels) like to be non-judgmental? Please share, I could use all the advice I can get.