how to stop judging others

The Log In My Own Eye (a.k.a. I'm Still Judgmental!)

Last week I was on one of those long, glorious walks with my husband along the Bay; the sun was shining, and our conversation was rich as we were both sharing what we were each choosing to celebrate about the day of work we had just completed.  And then...

My Thoughts of Judgment

And then, this guy walking his iguana on a leash passed us, all the while talking to his pet the way new parents talk to babies.  As heads turned and people pointed, I purposely

iguana on a leash

looked out over the ocean; ignoring the guy who I was sure was only out there for the attention that pet-walking an iguana can do for you. I internally rolled my eyes and didn't miss a beat of the conversation with my hubby.

A little further along and I saw a couple of guys just proudly standing by their cars.  It struck me that they were only there to show off their cars... like they somehow felt cooler just watching people look-over their cars with admiration.  Instantaneously, I felt both judgment that anyone would care that much about a car, and pity that their identity was that tied into a possession.  I'm pretty sure I looked back out at the ocean. I was not going to be one more gawker who gave them their jollies.

Neither interaction was really in my consciousness; they were just a few of the many thoughts we all see flow down our streams of thought.  Had it only been one of them I doubt I would have even realized I had thought it. But choosing to look away from humanity twice got my attention.

I immediately began to process with Greg.  "Wow.  We're out here in the most beautiful weather, getting fresh air and exercise, and I find myself judging people as we walk by them!  What's that about?"  I was determined to observe it in myself and bring it into my consciousness.

Picture of Trikkes, 3-wheel bicyce things

Then a couple came toward us on what I now think were things called Trikkes.  (I just learned that by googling "weird stand-up bike thing.")  They were standing on 3-wheel machines that they were guiding to go back and forth, think like a slalom course, by leaning one way and then the other.  They definitely had to take up a lot of sidewalk to navigate through the  crowds. You, unfortunately, now know where this is going.  Why don't they just ride bikes? Only people who want attention would use those!

Understanding Why I Judge

And while I felt an impulse of guilt that I was judging again. The value of having so many examples all at once helped me see the pattern: I was judging people who I deemed as wanting attention.

We then spent the next hour talking about 1) Why I had even assumed that those people had attention as their motive? 2) Whether that was even a bad thing if that was, in fact, their only motive! 3) That don't all humans crave attention, so why would I hold that against someone? 4) Where in my life I seek attention and whether I must think that my way of seeking attention is somehow superior to their method? 5) And that, if that was their call for attention, why was I so set against giving it to them?

It wasn't lost on me, at all, that I love attention.  That was a little painful to admit because I apparently hold some strong beliefs that we're not supposed to seek it, that we must pretend it doesn't matter to us, and that we can't admit we like it.  But I do.  I do like attention.  And my guess is that while we all want it from different people and perhaps in different ways, we all want to know we're noticed for whatever is important to us.

My processing has gone on all week... I've been watching myself like a hawk as I interact with people and process their behaviors.  Why should someone wanting attention bother me?  And can I be more honest with what I see as the shadow-side of me, perhaps looking at where I want attention and why I think I need to act all "false-humble" about it?  I've been blown away with some of my thoughts.

My Judgment Says More About Me Than It Does About Them

What wows me is how easy it would have been to not notice this tendency in myself.   Or, to notice it, as I may have done before, but not really ever taken the time to really see why it bothers me and what that says about me.  Because it's not really strangers on the road that can disrupt my peace; it's what they symbolize to me that I'm reacting to.  And I'm reacting to them because there's something in me that wants to react differently.

The Christian Scriptures have often-quoted verses in Matthew 7 that basically say: "Why worry about the speck in your friend's eye, when you have a log in your own?"

I hate to think how long I've been living with judgment in this area.... assuming that there was something wrong with those people.  When really there was something far bigger in me.

Because the truth is, when I sit with it, as I have this week, I want to admire people who don't look mainstream and who choose their own unique path in life.  That man with the iguana, taking pictures with kids and walking slow with his short-four-legged friend, probably brought more smiles and felt more joy that day than I did!  And those guys with cars?  Good for them for taking pride in something. And I should just be thrilled that they are hanging out together, being with their friends!  And now I'm way impressed with that couple who was willing to go to those lengths to not just exercise, but to be adventurous, fun, and daring.

I am choosing to consciously be fan of people who do things differently.

Now, as I go on my walk, I'm looking at people and whispering, "Good for you!  The world needs your spark! I love that you're willing to express yourself!"

And I'm hoping that what I practice giving to others will benefit me too... for one day, I may need to give that same love to myself when I choose to do something different.

Who could have ever guessed that I actually had that much to learn about me from an iguna-walker, boys with muscle cars, and Trikke-riders? Ha!

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Other posts on judgment:

The Judgment of Weight

Are We Competitors? Or Can We Be Friends?

How Annoying People Can Grow Me

 

 

 

 

How Annoying People Can Grow Me

Call the Holy Spirit your still small voice, your intuition, your wisdom, your highest self, your conscience, your place of peace, or whatever it is that guides you, but don't miss the profundity of this upcoming statement.  Marianne Williamson, in her bestseller book, A Return to Love reminds us that we are not centered on what matters if the actions of others continue to dictate how we feel and show up.

"We're not aligned with the Holy Spirit until people can behave in any way they choose to, and our inner peace isn't shaken."

That's the kind of statement that our heads can agree with, but is simply so hard to practice, isn't it?

In our day-to-day lives, it is far more tempting to fall for the deceptive thought that others determine our mood, that circumstances dictate our peace, and that the behaviors around us require our reaction.  But that would be a victim mindset, a belief that leaves us feeling as though we are at the mercy of others, dependent on their whims. It's a defeating belief to feel we can't find peace until everyone, and everything, is fixed to our liking. Which is why our peace can be so hard to come by if it relies on our bosses, our kids, our romantic partners, our colleagues, our friends, and our in-laws all being in peace first!

Hard to Hold Inner Peace

Applying that statement to my own life, asking myself "where do I sometimes give away my peace because of others?" I found a few whispered answers.

  • Moods of Others: My husband and I work in the same office in our house which can create a fabulous synergy most of the time.... but it also means that we're at risk of stepping under each others black clouds.  Sometimes when our wireless modem takes him offline, I feel the stress that he expresses.  I can't fix it and it only makes matters worse if I try to "inspire" him (apparently it feels controlling and judgmental to him? Who knew?) to react differently.  How to hold my own peace even when he feels anything but that?
  • Judging Others: I've been working consciously the last several months to resist making judgments about others... it's amazing though how automatically those thoughts seem to jump into my head during first impressions or various conversations!  Ugh!  It's far too easy for me to attach a value to the statements and choices of others.  And as I judge them, I subconsciously feel they are judging me which moves me to try to impress them rather than just see them. An inner peace is hard to hold when we're judging and feeling judged!
  • Filtering Their Stories: Our default thinking process is to run the stories of others through our filter of "how does it make me feel?"  So their stories (i.e. their achievements, their break-ups, their stories about their kids, their insecurities) somehow start making us feel something about our lives.  It's so difficult to simply let their story be their story.  I find that I can start to feel intimidated, jealous, sad, fearful, and disappointed even when we're not talking about my life!  It's one thing to enter into their feelings, it's quite another to change how I feel about myself based on something about them! How's a girl to feel peace if every conversation risks her feelings changing?

How Others Can Grow My Inner Peace

Seeing the list above (and I could name so many more!) makes me understand why some people are tempted to go be in solitude in order to connect with their spirituality. Bumping into each other invariably pushes our buttons.  This is true whether we're talking about the people we live with, or the women we're meeting at a ConnectingCircle for the first time.

It's hard to hold our own peace around others.  They either aren't living up to our expectations or desires which disappoints or angers us.  Or they exceed our expectations and standards which triggers our insecurities and fears.  Hard for every person to stand on the little line we have for them, without falling into the ditch on either side! (Not to mention the remote possibility that we're not the best judges of where to draw the line!)

Clearly, we have to learn to hold our own peace and let others do their thing.

But Marianne takes it one step further, inviting us not to just tolerate others, but to be grown by them:

To the ego, a good relationship is one in which another person basically behaves the way we want them to and never presses our buttons, never violates our comfort zones.  But if a relationship exists to support our growth, then in many ways it exists to do just those things; force us out of our limited tolerance and inability to love unconditionally.

It's a concept I'm holding to.  I've been very mindful in recent months about trying not to attach judgements and values on the decisions of others, which does result in more inner peace.  But to actually show up, across from someone who annoys me or frustrates me, and see it as a way to grow me, expand me, teach me patience and deepen my ability to love?

It reminds me that even if we spend time at a monastery, an ashram, a church, in a sacred text, or on a quiet walk in nature for our spiritual centering-- those are only the classrooms for learning.  It is in our connections with others that we are on the practice field for personal growth. All my prayers are in vain if I'm not showcasing more patience for the people I meet.

So if you're annoying, bring it on!  :)  I have lots of room to grow!