Along with being a feisty redhead comes an intense personality. I’m passionate, stubborn, argumentative, confrontational, and opinionated (maybe you figured that out already.) Another tendency I have is to jump to conclusions too quickly and to judge others by my own standards. That latter action, I’m coming to realize, is particularly dangerous and unhelpful. The older I get, the more I do, and the more people I meet, I’m realizing that applying my own ‘rules of life’ to another person usually accomplishes nothing more than losing a friend.
I read a quote in the fall issue of Geez magazine: “Spend one day accepting whatever comes. Suspend judgment and live in the moment.” I decided to try it out. For one day, as soon as a critical thought came into my mind, I pushed it away. When my husband got home, instead of ranting or “observing” (that’s how I’d justify it) certain tendencies or idiosyncrasies of people I’d seen that day, I kept my mouth shut and talked about other things. It was hard. I was bursting with the urge to say, “Oh my god, you’re not going to believe what so-and-so did,” but I reminded myself of the day’s challenge.
I can’t always keep my mouth shut, and I do need to let things off my chest once in a while, so I can’t promise never to judge; but that day’s exercise taught me an important lesson: that I am far too quick to judge. Just because I live my life one way does not mean that someone else has to live theirs the same way, or do the same things, or have the same views. In fact, some of the richest, most wonderfully rewarding relationships in my life have come out of differences – surprisingly different people whose fresh take on life is simply lovely, or it’s terribly irritating, but that’s okay, because I like the person for who they are.
I got thinking about the insidious nature of judgment because I had a conversation with an old friend this weekend. After a nasty break-up with her boyfriend of six years, she met another guy and is now very happy with him. Following her heart, however, has cost her a best friend, who felt that my friend was moving forward too soon; she wasn’t following the ‘proper’ rules for getting over a long-term relationship. Apparently my friend was supposed to spend at least eight months single and then date for a specified amount of time before becoming official with someone else. They don’t talk anymore.
I know what it feels like to be judged, to be on the receiving end, and it’s horrible. Why is judgment so addictive? What does anyone have to gain by judging and jumping to conclusions without thinking, probing, discussing, and resolving? It’s unfair to everyone involved. Perhaps most importantly, why the heck are we all so convinced we’ve got it figured out, and that our way is the best way to live? It may be the best for me, but it’s arrogant of me to assume it’s the best for you.
Having judged more than I should, witnessed judgment in my friend, and received it from someone I cared about, I’m hereby resolving to be less judgmental of others. Whenever I’m having trouble, I’ll remind myself of several helpful suggestions I read in the same issue of Geez on “cleaning those murky stereotypes from your mind.”
– Observe your own capacity to learn and grow; live as if others are equally changeable.
– Life is not a matching game; it’s appreciating uniqueness.
– Zip it: Words can reinforce domination or undermine it. Be aware when you say “all, always, everyone, and never.”
– Before you judge someone, imagine that person laughing, sleeping, or crying.
In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to suspend judgment and live in the moment, as hard as that may be; but, hey, challenges make life that much more interesting.