“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
― Jiddu Krishnamurti
It’s been said in a million different ways by a million different voices. From the Bible (Matthew 7: 1-3), to the Dalai Lama (“Love is the absence of Judgment), the wise among us know that to throw our anger and hate at the imperfections of others is to forget that we are imperfect ourselves.
One of my favorite, all-time quotes (I think it came from a tea tag many years ago) went something like this: “Compassion with condition becomes judgment.” I sat with those words for a long time. Compassion is a big deal to me. It’s my epitome. It’s my be-all, end-all, height of human brilliance. Compassion is to know the suffering and the joy of another, deep in our soul. Its simply one of the most beautiful things we are capable of as humans.
Unfortunately there are other things we’re capable of that drive a wedge between us and the glowing cloak of compassionate behavior.
Things like comparison, sizing up, and criticism. Things that originate from an outsider’s perspective and are glazed over with societal norms. Put plainly; judgment.
How others do things, what they do, why they appear to do it, what they don’t do, what they don’t do ‘right’. It’s easy to cycle through these thoughts and it becomes a dirty, destructive, and poisonous pattern. It’s a trap no matter how you come at it and society (especially the media) does nothing to dissuade us. In fact, it sets us up for it from the very beginning, inducing envy and anger over what we don’t have and endorsing pride over what we do. Cringing at what she wore, or what he said. Who’s marriage is failing and why. Who’s in rehab and who should be. All ways we like to look at another’s existence and, in some sick way, feel better or worse about our own.
The Deadly Art of Comparison
She’s prettier. Her hair is so much thicker. She’s always so put together! She has a six-figure job, a hot bod, and perfect children…
Though these thoughts may seem like compliments and praise for the societal driven attributes of others, they are really just judgments. Judgments on those we’re observing (she’s so put together, she must be high maintenance) but to ourselves as well (why don’t I ever get out of my sweatpants?)
If someone is more, it makes us feel less. If they are less, it makes us feel more. This cancerous thinking destroys self-esteem, skews our world-view, and worst of all, pits us against one another in a never-ending, never-winnable game of king (or queen) of the hill.
This month’s blog is all about Judging Less. To be the judge of something can have positive outcomes. Judging situations to find the best path forward. Judging dangers or risks to stay safe. Judging our core intentions to find our true selves and happiness is okay. Judging the outward appearances of other’s bodies or behaviors, or their lack of qualities that society deems worthy, is not.
I think there are a few lifetime processes that happen which help us out of this sick circle of judgment, one of which is parenthood.
It was so easy, at one point in my life, to judge how people raised, spoke to, interacted, or directed their children. But when I had offspring myself, I quickly put away all of my ‘expert opinions’ on the matter. Not only did I stop making judgments on how others raised children, (short of hurting their kids or themselves), but also on how those others made their lives work in the middle of that particular battlefield.
The longer I was a parent, the more I realized that we’re all just trying to make it work in our own way, and with the situations and tools we are given. I look at the haggard mom in the store with three kids all wailing and needing, and wanting, and that glassed over look and I want to take her into my arms and hug her. She’s me. She’s my worst day and my best.
Humans are not so different and on any given day in any given moment I could be walking down that same aisle. So, isn’t it much more useful to be a smiling face, a supportive shoulder, an understanding and decent person, than one who shies away or roles their eyes?
The second factor that has, and currently is, helping me move past the swamp of judgmental thinking towards others but especially myself, is age.
The older people I admire most are the ones that go out and do things, without caring about judgment from others. They are happy, serene, calm and unstressed because they’ve discovered the secret of how to stop giving a fu*k. The reason older people feel better, and approach life with more passion and less hesitation and have more centered calm is that they know that the opinions of others really matter very little. The shortness of life should inspire us to follow whatever path we want, without care for who’s watching and whispering along the sidelines.
The philosophy and the benefit of age also teaches us the important lesson that no matter what someone looks like, acts like, accomplishes, or fails at, they are still just a person. Just like us.
Their strengths and weaknesses aren’t ours, and (here’s the really important bit) THAT’S OK. Its okay that we can’t do what everyone else does. It doesn’t matter if she’s a size 2 or he’s got more hair. The valleys and peaks of every human being are different. Where they lack, they exceed elsewhere. Just like you. Just like me.
This month’s focus has really brought to the forefront the importance of catching my brain in that moment when I start to compare myself to others and become aware of it.
Why am I comparing? Why do I feel inadequate? Does it really matter? Am I happy with what I am doing and is it for the right reasons? My children aren’t going to be soccer stars or the next Brittany Spears (Goddess willing). I won’t probably ever be the next great American author (so rest easy James Patterson, I won’t be gunning for your New York Times Best Seller slot anytime soon). And that’s okay.
My kids do things they love, and even though there’s no trophy for fairy whispering, they exceed at those things. I may not ever sign that six-figure book deal. I’m okay with that, it doesn’t mean I won’t keep writing, and it also means that I won’t discredit my efforts and outcomes if they don’t obtain the lofty goals of others.
My new favorite mantra is “I make no judgments” and every word of it is true. I don’t know the path others walk, I only know my own.
So, next time you’re wishing you had the body of that mom at drop off, or the high paying career of your neighbor’s, sister’s cousin’s best friend, remember that every life, every human, has their own valleys that we know nothing about. Seeing another mom stagger into the class party, half smashed cupcakes in one hand and yesterdays pajama pants on doesn’t mean that you’re better. It just means she’s in a valley, where you could very well be tomorrow. Give her a hand up and a hug. She’s you, and you make no judgments.
Besides, smashed cupcakes still taste just as sweet.