We judge. We are human. We often judge a lot! Those more enlightened among us perhaps judge less, but judging is the way we compare and contrast. For example: I might say of someone: 'I judge that behaviour to be unacceptable to me'. So I may choose to avoid that person and not behave like that myself - BUT, and it's a big but, this does not mean that the person is bad. It simply means that their behaviour is not to my liking, but to them, it's perfect. It's perfect because that's what they're doing. To that person, it's not wrong.
Jesus is alleged to have said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” yet the Gospel indicates that Jesus frequently judged and evaluated the good from the not-good. He confronted the money changers and threw them out of the Temple..
There is always a place for critical thinking or judgement, but judgement must be tempered with humility and empathy for it to be healthy and beneficial to humankind. There is constructive criticism and destructive criticism. There is pointing out errors that we may perceive in another's argument or behaviour, and there is pointing accusing fingers.
It is always helpful to ask the following questions when we are about to judge someone and verbalise that judgement to them.
Is it better to say nothing and be kind, than to speak and seem cruel?
What would love do in this moment?
We are our own worst enemies. The person whom we judge the most is often ourselves, so it can feel particularly painful when others judge the perceived flaws we have, often unkindly.
We may have wounding from childhood, be it bullies in the playground to seeing our mother constantly judge both herself and who we are, and when another person points out these attributes, we find it hard to accept. It can hurt, and it can hurt deeply.
I was brought up by a judgemental mother. She judges others and herself. It was often done in a subtle yet damaging way for me as a child. Watching her get dressed for a night out was a repeated ritual: 'Do I look okay in this? Does it look awful? I'm too fat' and this would be repeated many many times in the course of an hour before she left the house. She hardly opens her curtains for fear of people looking in. 'What will people think?'. And lastly, when I needed a pair of listening ears, someone who just would listen to my problems and offer comfort, she just wanted to fix my issues, often angrily and blaming me.
My father on the other hand listened. He was a brilliant listener, and because he listened without feeling the need to add his thoughts or trying to fix my issues, I felt heard, I felt safe and I trusted him.
Unfortunately because of the judgements I receive from my mother, I don't trust her with my heart secrets or 'issues' now.
The Difference Between Preference and Judgement
There is a big difference between preferring one thing over something else and deciding that the second option is 'wrong'. You may like one thing more than another, but this does not mean you need to judge the option you don't like as being bad, or give the thing you do like a value, in order to prefer it.
You can prefer something without feeling the need to point out any errors to another. You may prefer ice-cream over cake when offered to you, but you wouldn't think that the person was wrong for preferring cake, you would simply acknowledge your differences and that would be the end of it.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
- William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”
When Judging Others Becomes Projection
It always makes me smile when someone says 'Stop judging people, it's wrong!'. Yet they are judging the person who is judging. It's hard to let go of judging.
For the past 30+ years I have judged a lot. I blamed my issues on other people. I failed to see that those I judged were holding up a mirror for me to see myself. Critical thinking is worthwhile, but sometimes we judge others to avoid our own shit.
This is not a bad thing either. We all project to some extent. It's a defence mechanism. Not many of us are fully accepting of who we are, so we often find it hard to own our 'stuff'.
Relationships are the biggest places where projection can happen, because when we are intimately involved we shine a light on ourselves via the other person. People we love and care for are in strong place to trigger our issues, because we are more open to them, which opens us up to our feelings of vulnerability.
We can continue to project our issues onto another or choose to see the mirror and see what is really going on here. Did the other person ask for your advice? If not why do you feel the need to offer it? Or did your reaction to them become a judgement of what they said? Did they really judge 'you'? Or were they sharing a preference? No matter whether it was kind or unkind, it all comes back to self, to why we do what we do and how we respond to those significant others in our lives.
Examples of projection:
- Projecting a need for perfection onto another, to avoid acknowledging the inner voice screaming at us to be perfect.
- Saying someone is stupid or clumsy when a voice inside you is telling you, you are stupid or clumsy.
- Judging someone as arrogant when you are unable to own your own arrogance.
Any judgement is a projection. If we are unable to meet this inner voice with kindness, or especially when we deny it, we will project onto another that same judgement in order to feel soothed from our own inner judgements.
How To Recognise Our Own Projections?
Start to turn around your thoughts.
"You're so angry" to "I'm so angry"
"You're such a bitch" to "I'm such a bitch"
"Why are you so critical?" to "Why am I so critical?" (of the other person and of self).
When you turn around these thoughts, you don't do this in a judgemental way, you do it in an ownership way. You own your own shit. You recognise where you have been angry or a bitch in your life and perhaps you did not accept this trait in you, but you still had that trait and owning it means that life does not need to keep showing you this trait mirrored in another person.
You may think you are none of these reflections, but dig deeper and I highly recommend trying out Byron Katies, The Work HERE . The 4 questions help us to dig deeper. I am reminded to dig deeper myself as I write this post.
This post is part of my A to Z blogging challenge dropby Monday to see what the letter K will be about.