Do you believe that being an evolved, spiritual person means letting go of judgment?
Do you pride yourself on seeing the equality of all points of view?
Do you cringe when you see the words “you should” in the title of this article?
If so, you may be setting yourself up for a painful wake-up call.
Before I explain how this “no-judgment trap”, that many of those in the personal development community fall into, could sabotage your potential, let me make something clear – I don’t like judging people. I don’t like the idea that one person is better or worse than another. In particular, I despise stereotypes that attempt to label and put entire groups of people, or even complex individuals, into neat little boxes.
Prior to moving to Los Angeles, I’d often hear things like, “LA people are snobs.” Think for a moment about how stupid this is. There are almost 4 million people in LA. How the hell can anyone claim to have first-hand knowledge of the personalities of 4 million people!?
Yet such statements are made all the time, unthinkingly, by the masses. Even the most aware individuals can fall into this trap of judging, comparing, and stereotyping. My thought that it’s “stupid” to judge LA people as snobs is, in itself, a judgment.
This is where things get interesting.
Regardless of how much we make the effort to not think, or say aloud, judgments about people and things, we all of us experience a voice inside of our heads making critical judgments. Why is that?
If we refer to the definition of judgmental as simply exercising judgment as opposed to exercising criticism, then you’re supposed to be judgmental. It’s impossible for your brain not to form judgments. Without this ability, how would you ever discern truth from lies? Wise choices from unwise choices? Vodka from water?
When Judgments Go Wrong
The problem then isn’t with the act of making judgments. The problem is when those judgments lead to self-deception. Your brain is taking in more information than you can ever consciously process, and to make your life easier, it makes judgments to simplify the world into manageable pieces of information. leading to biases, prejudices, and stereotypes.
Carol Travis states in the book Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me) social psychologist Marilynn Brewer, who has been studying the nature of stereotypes for many years, once reported that her daughter returned from kindergarten complaining that “boys are crybabies.” The child’s evidence was that she had seen two boys crying on their first day away from home. Brewer, ever the scientist, asked whether there hadn’t also been little girls who cried. “Oh yes,” said her daughter. “But only some girls cry. I didn’t cry.” Brewer’s little girl was already dividing the world, as everyone does, into ‘us’ and ‘them’. ‘Us’ is the most fundamental social category in the brain’s organizing system, and it’s hardwired.”
While kids come into the world relatively judgment free, we can’t escape our biology. Eventually, the brain will look for patterns to make sense of the world. Understanding this is a universal quality, and that I was equally guilty, was my first step in letting go of my own judgment towards others I considered judgmental. This “judging people for being judgmental” trap is something many of us so called evolved people can fall into.
What Do We Do About Our Judgments?
Rather than try to eliminate an inherent part of you that will attempt to form judgments, which is prone to error, you must cultivate something else. You must cultivate a greater sense of self-awareness of your own ability for self-deception.
The point isn’t to eliminate your judgments altogether; It’s to learn to judge your judgments.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m not good enough?” If so, I suggest using your ability to judge in order to categorize that as total BS. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I have a purpose to positively impact the world,” you may wish to use your judgment, or for those who prefer a word with less stigma, discernment, to decide if that is coming from a place of Truth.
Your thoughts are not “you.” We all have an inner critic or ego that will say crazy things. Once you realize just how much BS is going on in your head, you’ll start to differentiate between the things you tell yourself that are true and the things that are just nonsense. This is important to keep in mind because when I say you should be judgmental, I’m only referring to the mind you have. In truth, you are something much greater than simply your mind, your thoughts, and the various judgments tied up into all of that.
Truth is ultimately what we’re after. The most dangerous part about dropping judgment altogether is that all points of view become equal and relativistic, and therefore nothing has significance. While there is an element of “truth” to a relativistic perspective, taken to the extreme, it ignores a common sense perspective that some things can simply be or not be in alignment with objective reality.
It’s also important to have judgment to determine which truths are more important than other truths. While it’s true that I’m wearing a red shirt right now, would it be fair to say that that truth is equal in significance to understanding how my actions are affecting the people I love? I must make a judgment call about what things in this world are better to place my attention on.
Even if you wish to distinguish between “judgment” and “discernment,” the point remains you’ll always have the voice of your ego inside of you whispering made-up stories, comparisons, and unfairly critical judgments. Removing your ego and therefore this voice inside of you isn’t within your control nor necessarily desirable. What is desirable is gaining awareness of how these judgments and lies can awaken yourself to what is True. Your ego then becomes a force to empower rather than to enslave you.
To do this will take time and practice. It will take study and educating yourself on Universal Truths. Ultimately, it will take questioning and judging your own thoughts and judgments by asking yourself, “Is this really true? How can I know that this is really true?” The lies you hear, either from others or the voice in your head, are only damaging when you’ve failed to judge them as false.