I think I’ve confessed before that I’m pretty judgmental.
I don’t want to be. But too often I find myself judging someone or something.
I’ve tried for years – perhaps decades – to stop that judging.
I remember a specific instance from back when I was teaching high school. This was probably 20 years ago. It was first thing in the morning with my arrival at school. I went through the front doors to start my day, resolved not to judge anyone. And before I could walk down the hall to my classroom, I was judging another teacher, one who always seemed to me to be judgmental.
I was thinking, “Look at her! Always thinking she’s better than everyone, always judging people . . . ”
And then it struck me.
HA! The irony!
I was judging someone for being judgmental! Just moments after I’d resolved NOT to judge people!
BUT I couldn’t seem to help myself.
Since then the edge of my judgment has been filed down some. I’ve managed to wear off some of the sharpness, mostly by being mindful of when I am judging.
Yes, I still find myself judging people and situations, but I catch myself almost immediately.
And instead of scolding myself – as I did those many years ago – I ask myself what this judging is about.
Why am I judging?
Usually, I’m trying to make myself feel better.
But feel better about what??
If I look closely, I find that my judging fits these categories and situations – all of which are actually not true:
I feel not good enough, so I judge to make someone else have “more than” some negative quality than I do. You probably know what I mean. “I might be fat, but he’s fatter than I am.” “I might be stingy, but those people are more stingy than I am.” “I might be judgmental, but she’s more judgmental than I am.”
I am irritated, not at ease, so I look for someone or something to blame. I notice this the most when I’m driving, but I also notice it when I have to wait somewhere. If someone gets in “my way” – slows me down or makes me have to adjust my plan, I immediately start judging. I might come up with the words “dumb” or – ahem – something stronger, a word or phrase that I don’t want to repeat here. And I always have a feeling of exasperation and comparison, as in “I’m a much better driver than that dumb ___________. Why don’t they just get OUT OF MY WAY!”
I feel scared, so I judge to make myself feel stronger. This fear is at the root when I stereotype some person or some group. I might be judging another (as in “different from mine”) race or social class or political party or religion. But what’s really going on is that I don’t feel safe and secure for some reason, so I judge others to try to make myself feel “better.” You can refer to my irritation example above, but multiply the irritation to get to the much deeper level of true fear. Fear of the big changes going on in our society and world. Fear that my “comfortable” life might need to change. Fear that maybe, perhaps, possibly I can’t make that change without having to change myself pretty substantially.
I truly think that most of my – and our – judging comes from fear.
If I’m comfortable and happy, at ease in the world, then I don’t judge people or situations. I can be with whatever is happening, however people are acting, and respond to that. Appropriately, not focused on myself and my wants.
I can be aware that the world does not revolve around me.
Because it doesn’t, no matter how much judging I do.
There are billions of us humans all trying to be safe and comfortable. That includes all of the people I am judging.
And we all want the situations around us to be safe and comfortable.
So when I find myself judging a person or situation, I try to remember to take a breath, step back, and be gentle with myself as I adjust my thinking.
I don’t have to like the person or situation. But I can be mindful of motivations and situations that cause discomfort and unease . . . those same feelings that bring out my worst qualities.
I truly believe that when I can be more peaceful and more tolerant, that positive energy helps the people and situations around me. Maybe in a minuscule way – but nonetheless, it helps.
When I consider that fact, I realize I have a responsibility to stop judging, to stop bringing negative energy into this world.
I have a responsibility to bring peaceful, kind energy into this world.
And that’s a really good motivator for me to pay attention to my judgmental thoughts.
And to change them.