The other day a group of us were talking about judgment—how one shouldn’t do it, how we all do it, how we feel guilty when we judge—and then judge ourselves for doing it. It’s an on-going issue for many of us, so here are a few thoughts. If any of you have ideas about it, please do share them!
First, I think of judgment as an attitude of condemnation, in whatever degree the negative feelings come. When I see something and instantly feel that the person who did it is wrong, that feeling is problematic.
It’s not a bad thing to see what another person is doing that may be harmful in some way. But to see it needn’t mean to condemn the person. A dear friend, when someone complained about someone else, used to say, “Isn’t she adorable!” It gave me pause more than once. My friend had come to understand that undesirable behaviors are often just a young soul trying to learn to walk. Do we condemn babies for being awkward or inefficient for trying to learn? No, we see them as “adorable.” Then compassion becomes possible.
Another attitude that has helped me has been to assume from the beginning that everyone is doing the best they can, given what they’ve experienced and what they understand or accept. This assumption gives me the chance to try to understand them, and from understanding, love can grow.
Why are we warned against judging? Well, it can create lousy human relationships, but I suspect the deeper reason is this: judging closes my own heart. If my heart closes more easily than it opens, then the depths of love and joy are less likely to show up. And if the divine aspect of life is loving, then I shut myself off from what is most desirable.
I think we’ve often been taught that it’s “immoral” to judge, that a non-judgmental attitude is a required virtue. Maybe, but it helps me more to think of “don’t judge,” as simply practical advice for opening more and more to love, to the Divine. The heart cannot be open part of the time and closed tight shut at another time. So if we long for a loving heart, we can begin to practice opening rather than judging. And yes, it is a practice!