Each of us is constantly bombarded by barrage of information, most of it getting through even without us noticing what’s going on.
At the same time our conscious mind is constantly prodded: ‘do this, don’t do that, behave, lay low, stand up, be proud of yourself, don’t be so cocky’…
And we need to choose. This is how we become who we are.
Our past choices have determined who we are now and our present choices pave the way towards who we are going to be tomorrow.
Meanwhile some of the most pervasive pieces of advice we get are “don’t judge”, “love your neighbor as you love yourself” and “take care, anger blinds your reason and eats away your empathy”.
The last one is a ‘piece of cake’, it is so reasonable that it make no sense to comment on it.
The second one is so classic that most of us forget it’s importance.
Helped by the fact that it’s not at all easy to put it into practice. Loving isn’t like judging, it doesn’t come as easily and one cannot make himself love another on the spur of the moment.
Yet, in practically no time, we can pass judgement on almost anything, sometimes even without giving much thought about it.
The third one, “don’t judge”, is the one I find the most interesting.
Had I been a cocky brat I’d tell you that those who dispense this advice so generously as if they were aspirin want to keep all the judgement power for themselves, after all the firsts to give it to us were the mythical sages of the ancient times…
I can’t vouch for them all but I don’t think this was the real reason. The authoritarian paradigm is so destructive for a society as a whole that if a community sticks to it for a significant amount of time it ends up badly so this advice must have survived for another reason.
How to refrain from judging and, even more important, what would we become if we gave it up completely?
Merriam Webster, the place where I go every time I have the least inkling that I’d be missing something when it comes to the meaning of words, defines “to judge” as:
So. Could we go through life without having opinions or preferences? Could we even preserve our individuality? What would happen if all of us would act as the members of a bee hive do?
OK, some of you will say now that we’d be easy pray for anybody who had managed to preserve a shred of his own individuality and who, presented with such an opportunity, would not be able to refrain itself.
As someone who had spent his first 30 years under communist rule I’d say ‘yes, you are right, only history shows us that such arrangements are untenable. Every time a society has given up too much of it’s power to choose and delegated too much of it to its ruler, situation know as an ‘imperium’ (dictatorship, absolute monarchy, monopoly, call it what you like), that society had passed through unpleasant historical periods’.
So what are we to do? To judge or not to judge?
How about using our common sense? How about reversing the order of those three advices?
What if we start with anger management and then work up our empathy?
After graduating from that stage we can start loving our neighbors. Not all of them at once, of course. If we keep in mind that our goal is to learn how to love – or at least to respect – even the most unpleasant of them we can start with the the one we like most. Only don’t forget to get to the end of the line.
And yes, while we go through the first two stages it would help to stop condemning people. Don’t kid yourself, you’ll never be able to stop judging, no matter how hard you’ll try. What you can do, quite easily, as soon as you catch yourself in the act of judging, is to consider the situation as calmly and compassionately as possible and then to halt the process just before it’s conclusion, before the ‘condemnation’ part.
Remind yourself that you don’t have all the pertinent information – we seldom do, even when we really need to make an important decision, and that your ‘sentence’ is, most of the times, irrelevant for the person you were judging.
You have, of course, noticed that I was speaking about the ‘casual’ and every day judgement we perform all the time, not about the instances when we do have to make a decision.
The point is that, very shortly after you start implementing the first two steps, you’ll notice a gradual shift in your general attitude towards the world.
And no, that will not happen simply because you’ve went through the motions. You will be able to complete the motions only after you convince yourself that being judgemental is actually bad for yourself, in the first and foremost place.
You see, every time you pass a harsh condemnation you actually coral yourself into a corner. Even when fresh information comes and refutes your judgement you feel the need to stand by your ‘standards’ – cause yes, every time you pass a judgement you do set a standard. So standard after standard, each time you pass a new judgement you erect a new fence between you, and those who agree with you, and the rest of the world.
And fences are strange things… some are good, those who keep the cattle in and the burglars out while some are so thick that prevent you from seeing what’s going on in the rest of the world.
After all our fences are our responsibility, we erect them, we maintain them…
Now please tell me how many of you did judge me for starting this post with a picture of a strange looking fence and how many figured out that that fence was in fact a very ingenuous play ground designed by Tejo Remy?