by Virginia Clark
Is there any habit we fall into more easily than judging others? Be it towards family, friends or strangers, we have an opinion, a judgment about who they are or how they are acting. These thoughts are so prevalent that often we aren’t even aware of how we are being affected by them.
You can spend a tremendous amount of time agonizing over the perceived wrongs you see in someone and convincing yourself that they’re true. This adds up to a lot of energy spent feeling either angry, resentful, envious, hurt, frustrated, or all of these.
The sad truth is the more you judge others the more you are judging yourself — and punishing yourself for who you are. But by paying attention to the judgments that constantly arise in your mind, you can begin to ease up on other people and be kinder to yourself as well.
Judgments can be long held resentments that last years or even decades, but they also can come on instantly, the moment you meet someone. You may find yourself taking an immediate dislike to their appearance, manner or voice. Surprisingly, you develop a sudden dislike for this person, as if they were “an enemy.” They haven’t done anything but look a certain way and there you are having a visceral reaction you can’t control.
Many of these reactions are subconscious and primal, but you can consciously control what you do with them. It takes being aware of your judgmental thought the moment you think it and being willing to change it instantly, before it takes hold of you. If you can pay attention and catch yourself, you can then choose to think differently. You will free yourself of the pain of judging others and yourself and you may begin to feel like a whole different person.
A few weeks ago I was driving down an alley and had to make a turn around a blind corner. As I did, another car was coming the other way driven by an elderly man in a very beat up car. He angrily stopped halfway through the turn and blocked my way. He yelled at me.
“Slow down! How dare you speed through this turn, you could have killed us both!”
The first thought that came to mind, well, I’d rather not say.
Then I thought, “How dare this ‘old geezer’ who is probably a terrible driver, in that beat up car accuse me of going too fast. I wasn’t!”
I suddenly caught myself and thought, “Wow, is this me? Why am I so hostile?”
In that moment I completed reversed my thinking and replied, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know I was going so fast. I won’t do it again.”
In a split second I saw him change. He waved his hand indicating it was no big deal. He wished me a good day and drove away with a smile on his face.
I didn’t recognize myself, but it felt good. I had chosen not to judge him or make him wrong, and it freed me.
That memory and its good feelings have stayed with me. It continues to remind me that even though as human beings we are programmed to be judgmental, it is in our power to change the pain of judgment into feeling good.
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