As a child raised with a religious upbringing I was regularly warned not to judge others (Judge not lest thee be judged). The reason? I may be judged in return. It was considered a ‘bad’ thing to be judged presumably because the judgement would be harsh. It seemed a simple enough equation as a child, so I followed it. Don’t do something you shouldn’t do and people won’t do it back. Yet somehow the simple theory is so hard in practice.
Maybe it’s a reflection of my age or simply the world we live in but now everyone is a judge. Whether it is reality TV, social media, 360-degree feedback /appraisals at work, everywhere we look we are surrounded by a form of judgement in our personal and professional lives. We are actively encouraged to judge others and to put ourselves in the docks for judgement too. Likes, reviews, follows, scores they become our sustenance and motivation to continue down this path. We become driven to seek acceptance and are rewarded when we receive it.
Obviously, there’s a need for official judication in aspects of our society (law, sports etc) but for the rest of us, who gave us the right? We all have our own thoughts, opinions, beliefs and values and this is our right. Judgement assumes a position of power, authority and control. Your verdict of approval and disapproval is based on your own personal mindset and effectively negates the rights of another. Judging another essentially says your thoughts, opinions, beliefs and values is superior to theirs. You’ve impinged on their rights with your own. You create a situation where you lift yourself up and push another down until they conform to your standards.
Judgement creates a barrier which prevents acceptance. Acceptance in this sense is not about taking on board someone else’s beliefs, values etc as your own but accepting another’s right to be different and being non-judgemental about their choices. It’s about acknowledging you are not always right, that you don’t know everything and that you are open to learning.
I accept I’m not special in this regard and like everyone else judges when I shouldn’t. I know I need to work on this skill and that it requires continual attention and practice. I’m lucky though, I have a wonderful teacher who reminds me every day. He comes in the form of a blond-haired, blue-eyed seven-year-old with a wicked grin, a massive heart and an even bigger attitude. He’s the kid who gets lost in his imaginary world of storytelling. He wears two different shoes and sleeps on the floor – just because he can. He’s the kid who befriended the lonely boy at the skate park and asked for money to buy him a drink because he didn’t have one. He doesn’t seek to conform but also doesn’t strive to be different for the sake of it. He’s shown the beauty, creativity and wonder that exists when judgement does not. He’s taught me how healthy your esteem can be if you’re not comparing or measuring yourself by another’s yardstick. He reminds me the power of parenting and how we can alter our children’s beliefs when we impart our own judgements under the guise of truth. He has highlighted how fragile our sense of self is and the destructive impact judgement can have.
It can change who a person is and who they were meant to be. So, again, what right do any of us have to do that?
Whilst I no longer follow the faith of my childhood I still see the truth in the lesson of withholding judgement. For me, the ‘badness’ I used to see is no longer in being the one judged but the one who judges. It’s not a power I, nor most of us should have. Instead, I’ll continue to learn and share the lessons from my young and wise teacher:
- Accept another’s differences and appreciate your own.
- Non-judgement is an opportunity to learn and grow instead of compare and copy.
- In a society that embraces judgement practice respect, awareness and empathy.
- You’ll never be you if you’re conforming to another’s standards instead of your own.
- Our beliefs should never impinge on another’s.
- Be mindful of the damage & impact your judgements can have on another, particularly those who are still establishing their own framework of beliefs and values.