A few years back, the husband of an acquaintance spoke curtly—dare I sound judgmental and say rudely—to his mother-in-law in front of me, his wife, his daughter, and a few others.
Each time I thought about what he said, a wave of judgmental thoughts came into my mind: How could he speak to her like that? How could he be so disrespectful? And, what a poor example he was setting for his daughter…
These negative thoughts stayed with me for a few days until I asked myself: “Have I ever spoken curtly or rudely to someone?”
The answer was, of course, “Yes.” And, although I didn’t want to make excuses, I asked myself if someone had been watching me at that moment, if there were a reason that would make that person understand where I was coming from or what I was going through. The answer was, “Usually, yes.”
As soon as I turned my attention away from him and looked at myself, all of the negative thoughts I was having about him faded away. Instantly, I felt so much better.
Beyond that, it provided a good opportunity for me to start looking at myself, why I judged others, and how I could stop it.
My meditation teacher, Giziben, has said, “Judge, but don’t condemn. If you hear that someone has done something terrible, judge that you will not do that. But don’t condemn the other, as that ignites the desire for revenge and kills the love within.”
The reasons why we judge are fairly easy to identify. Often we judge others when we’re jealous of them in some way, because they have something, like a position, status, or role, which we don’t.
We also judge when our desires or expectations aren’t met and then we think, “How could they do that?” It can also just become a habit to complain and find fault.
But what is the root cause of judging? It is our ego.
First, the ego compares the self with others, often putting others down to temporarily boost up the self. Then it starts to compete, trying to prove that it is better. “I would have never have done that…”
Then, it isn’t long until the criticism comes, which quickly leads to condemnation. “Isn’t he awful…”
Once we’ve reached this state, there’s no peace left in our mind and no love left in our heart—and therefore, no happiness.
So, what’s the antidote to judging? Acceptance.
My teacher often says, “The ego can’t bear acceptance. It lives on resisting.”
When I realize that I’ve slipped into judging, to get out of it, I focus on accepting the person or the situation. (This doesn’t mean that you have to agree; you just have to accept what is!)
Sometimes to accept someone it helps to remember that they’re doing the best that they can at that moment.
What we don’t accept is that we want them to do something else, but actually, what we want is beyond their capacity.
My teacher has said that this is “like going to an apple merchant and asking for oranges. And then we get upset when we get apples. But they didn’t have any oranges to give in the first place. So whose mistake was it for misjudging the other’s capacity?”
To move into acceptance, it also helps to remember that we cannot possibly know the whole story.
Whether it’s between two friends or colleagues, a husband and wife, or two in-laws, we cannot know what has happened between them that brought them to that moment that we might witness. So, to judge one moment in time, without regard for the past or what is to come in the future, lacks wisdom.
If you ask anyone, no one will say that they like to be judged. Everyone wants to free from being judged, but very few are free from judging.
We want to be accepted unconditionally, but we rarely accept others unconditionally.
The question is, why? Maybe because we don’t accept ourselves and are constantly judging ourselves that we do the same to others. It’s a form of entertainment to keep from doing the work we need to do on ourselves.
But if we truly don’t like being judged, then we would stop judging others, because intuitively we know that what we put out comes back to us.
Judge others and you will be judged. Accept others and you will be accepted. (Maybe not immediately, but in time!)
When my mind is caught in the spin of judging what someone else has said or done, I don’t like how it feels. I don’t like that someone else is occupying my thoughts and that it brings negative feelings that extinguishes the love within. When this happens, I know I am not in a place where I want to be.
The good news is that I have found that a way out of this place.
When we shift our thoughts from judging to accepting, not only others, but also ourselves, we can restore our happiness.
Patricia Tashiro wrote An Angel Whispered, an inspiring book on happiness, while studying with Giziben, a gifted spiritual teacher who's practiced Raja Yoga Meditation for over 20 years. Patricia believes peace, love & happiness will only come in the world when we find it within.