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I wish you a Thanksgiving filled with love and gratitude.
Q: Often times, when we occupy the space of 'I'm right and you're wrong' it keeps us from seeing our own responsibility in matters. When we judge others' foibles and personality traits, what does it really say about us? What can we do to identify and get rid of judgment in ourselves and in our lives?
From Deepak Chopra, MD:
"The Hidden Side of Judgment
Not every person gets to the point in their life when they question the value of judging against others. After all, society depends upon a healthy regard for the difference between right and wrong. Many people, perhaps the vast majority, are content with a system where rules are meant to be obeyed, lawbreakers are punished, and so on. But the mechanism of justice is not the whole of life. When I was young, I was struck by a passing remark from the lips of a spiritual teacher: 'Where love is not, there must be laws.'
At a certain point, a new and different kind of view begins to oppose our certainty that we have a right to judge others. Insight begins to dawn. It's not the same insight for everyone, yet I'd guess that something like the following begins to make sense:
Judge not lest you be judged.
We condemn in others what we are afraid to see in ourselves.
Blame is the projection of guilt.
Us-versus-them thinking is destructive to both sides of the equation.
How would you label such thoughts? If you are a rigid adherent to 'an eye for an eye,' these insights are corrosive; they must be rejected to keep your black-and-white moral code intact. But there's a reason, despite the intricacies and cruelties of the system of law, why the spiritual side of our nature is attracted to non-judgment. We want to love and be loved. At a deeper level, we realize that all suffering is ultimately related to self-judgment. Seeing yourself as fallen from grace, you feel justified in treating everyone else as fallen, to one degree or another.
Yet at a certain, highly unpredictable point, the urge arises to move beyond self-judgment, and when that urge arises, the need to judge others begins to decrease. There is an evolutionary impulse in everyone, or so the world's wisdom traditions teach us. We believe in our higher or better selves. We want to reconnect with the soul. The selfish demands of the ego wear us down and begin to seem pointless. Whatever the trigger, moving beyond judgment is evolutionary. A breakthrough is possible, after which a path opens up.
Walking this path transforms the entire person, over a period of time, and leads to many stages of realization. At one stage you may want to rebel against rules and authority. That can be a satisfying stance, but eventually it is seen as untenable. At another stage you may feel humbled and therefore more judgmental against yourself than ever before. That, too, is just a stage. Ahead are various roles we attempt to play—martyr, saint, ascetic, child of God, child of Nature, etc. It would be too ironic to judge against any of these steps in personal growth; they are convincing while they last and rather empty once they are finished. Whatever the way stations that you experience on the path, the goal isn't the role you play; it's fulfillment within yourself.
Fulfillment is all-inclusive, which is why it is often labeled as unity consciousness. You exclude nothing from your being; there is a common thread running through you and everyone else. At that point, when empathy is effortless, you have succeeded in something that is at once very desirable and very rare. You have transcended the war between good and evil, light and darkness. Only in that state does the war end, and the perplexing issues around judgment are solved at last. Short of complete fulfillment within yourself, you cannot help but participate in duality, because the entire play of right and wrong, good and bad, light and darkness, depends upon self-division. Your ego will persist until the very end in labeling A as good and B as bad, for the simple reason that duality requires choices. As long as you prefer one thing over another, a mechanism will sneak in that says, 'If I like it, it must be good. If I don't like it, it must be bad.'
Fortunately, even as the game of judgment keeps society running smoothly, constantly dictating our likes and dislikes, our loves and hates, human beings are born to transcend. We can go beyond the setup of society, the ego and judgment itself. In that innate capacity for seeking the higher self, every hope and promise offered by the world's great spiritual teachers rests."
Deepak Chopra is the President of the Alliance for A New Humanity.
From Michael Berg:
"It is easy to judge others and find fault in them; it is sometimes even enjoyable. Yet in reality, if our aim is to draw greater blessings and fulfillment into our lives, it is one of the most dangerous things we can do.
When we judge others we often think that we are simply making an observation, and that this action or thought will not affect us. However this is not the case. When we judge others we are awakening and connecting ourselves to a force of judgment. It is like trying to throw mud at someone—we might or might not hit them but we are definitely tainted by the mud. And by acting in this way we don't necessarily affect the other person, but we most definitely draw the energy of judgment and lack into ourselves.
I am often asked, 'We know that there are no coincidences, but why, then, do we see faults in others if it is wrong to judge people?' The kabbalists teach that as easy as it is to see shortcomings in others, it is almost impossible for an individual to truly find and assess his or her own faults. In order to change and grow we need to be able to know what it is about ourselves that we need to transform. Yet if we are never completely capable of seeing our own faults, how will we change?
In order to assist us, the Creator created endless mirrors for each of us that allow us to clearly see what we have to change. These mirrors are all the people that are in our lives every day. Every fault we see in another person is an indication that we have an aspect of that issue within ourselves. In fact, the reality is that the only reason we are being shown these flaws in others is to realize that they also exist within ourselves. How silly is it then that we often disregard this and focus on what is wrong with other people?
The kabbalists use a simple story to illustrate this lesson. A man spends all of his day in a coal mine and his entire body and face are filthy. As he arrives home he sees a mirror his wife has bought. He looks at the mirror and sees that his reflection is dirty, so he takes a rag and starts cleaning the mirror. He tries and tries with all his might but his face still remains dirty. Of course this man is acting foolishly, as it is not a problem with the mirror but rather his own filth. This is how we usually behave—we see a reflection of our less-than-perfect traits in others, and rather than realizing that we are seeing this in order to change and perfect ourselves, we stay focused on the faulty mirror.
If we truly integrate this understanding into our lives, the next time we feel the urge to judge others we will instead look inward and find how we too possess the fault we see and forget about judging anyone. By acting in this way we protect ourselves from drawing the energy of judgment and lack into our lives. And most importantly, we gain a clear direction for own transformation and growth."
Michael Berg is a Kabbalah scholar and author. He is co-Director of The Kabbalah Centre. You can follow Michael on twitter, twitter.com/inspiringchange. His latest book is What God Meant.
From Dr. Karen Binder Byrnes, Ph.D:
"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves." -Carl Gustave Jung
"As human beings, we are constantly searching for self-definition by viewing ourselves in the context of our fellow “others" on this earth. One of the ways we do this is to be continually searching for the "sameness" or "difference" with the people we encounter in life. Often, the search to realize our own uniqueness leads being judgmental. As a basic and primal evolutionary survival tool, judgement of the "other's" intentions could enable one to move toward or away from a threatening encounter. However, on an everyday basis, most of us are more likely to be judgmental as a means of elevating our own self-importance and/or assuaging our feelings of inadequacy.
There is an underlying sense of moral superiority and righteousness when we are being judgmental. In this dynamic, whether we are judging ourselves or others, we lose the sense of tolerance, compassion and objectivity that is probably most required. Recently, I was in a car with a male friend who became irate and judgmental about another driver who cut in on us in a toll line. I laughed, as I had been in the car with him many times when he had done the very same thing to other drivers. This is a simple example.
Being judgmental can drain us. Having compassion and empathy restores and increases our energy and our sense of well-being. It helps us want to move toward others and allows others to move toward us. During this holiday season, when we are surrounded by family and friends, we should all try to be more tolerant and empathic to our differences and check some of our judgments both of others and of ourselves at the door. Be mindful of the tendency to be judgmental and find humor and acceptance the kaleidoscope of human foibles that make up our world! Happy Holidays!! Peace."
Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes is a leading psychologist with a private practice in New York City for the past 19 years. See her website, DrKarennyc.com, for more information.
From Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel:
"What I hear in this question is a common concern for all of us: we want to be able to respond to our relationships with skillfulness and clarity. But when we critically examine, say, a conflict we might be having with a friend or family member, we often find ourselves judging others based on 'right' or 'wrong.' So to me the fundamental question comes down to this: 'Is there a way of working with relationships without judging or ignoring?'
For me this question opened up a query into the difference between discernment and judgment. When we look at another human being—or ourselves—we see that we are not 'one way.' Human beings are creative and destructive, cranky and kind, joyful and miserable … it's impossible to pin down a human being. We are always a 'work in progress.' So when we judge others (or ourselves) we are objectifying or seeing them in a one-dimensional way. There is a closing down around a negative idea, and simultaneously, there is a non-acceptance of the "fullness" of who they are. This is why, when we judge others, we experience first and foremost the negativity of our own mind.
One thing I like to do when I find myself in these situations is to try to remember at least two other qualities about the person whom I have just 'put in a box.' For instance, aside from what is irritating us, we may acknowledge that she is a good mother to her children. We may remember that she brought us soup when we were sick. In this way, all of us move out of our tendency to judge them—to form a solid picture of them—which in turn moves us out of our own negativity. This helps us see this person more fully, which, if we are honest with ourselves, is more accurate.
This doesn't mean that this person doesn't exhibit habits that challenge us. Nor does it mean that we shouldn't also find a way to work with or even communicate with this person, set boundaries, and so on … But when we don't shut down by making judgments, the atmosphere of our minds is open, gentle and non-reactive. This gives us a greater capacity for clear seeing and how to relate to them skillfully in order to obtain a positive outcome.
I deeply believe that seeing the fullness of others, in all their pain and glory, allows us to express the greatest love and respect we can offer. It is an unconditional kind of love. And this kind of love has a profound effect on our own minds.
Not long ago a dear friend of mine lost her father. She told me that after his passing, her family and friends began to praise and deify him. Although she adored and respected her father, this was hard for her. She said that her father was many things: he was intelligent and kind, but also sometimes rough and gritty, 'like a prickly pear cactus.' She had trouble listening to people describe her father in such a one-dimensional way. She felt that her love for her father included the fullness of his human-ness.
I found this touching because her love for her father was inclusive … she didn't have to forget or disregard him in any way. She could accept him completely for who he was. She was able to see him clearly and accept him fully, both at the same time.
We can have an inclusive stance that makes room for the full humanity of others. From this ground, we can respond to a parent, friend or co-worker without judgment. When we realize that we can be both open and discerning at the same time, we experience freedom from negativity and meaningfulness in our relationship with the world."
Elizabeth Mattis-Namgyel is a Buddhist scholar and the author of the book, The Power of an Open Question (Shambhala Publications).