People are so darned judgmental. I know we’re wired to be that way, but why does it seem like so few people are even TRYING to let go of that? So many folks feel compelled to be all like, “I’m not normally judgmental BUT it affects me, so judge, judge judge.” In the past week or two, I’ve seen the effects of other people’s judgmentalism and compulsion to give unsolicited advice have hurt people I care about who are doing their best in their complicated and difficult lives (hey, isn’t that every single one of us?).
So, here’s sort of a letter to myself, to remind me of my intentions. Writing them down helps. And, it might help some reader, even!
What Helps Me
I read a lot of Buddhist stuff, and a lot of my spiritual practice draws from that tradition. It’s helped me a lot as I walk my own path toward being less judgmental (just ask anyone who knows me, I have an issue with it, just like everyone else). Here are two things that help me, and they are things that can help you no matter what your spiritual beliefs are:
- Breathing: By this I mean stopping whatever you are doing that makes you feel angry, annoyed, anxious, or worried and breathing deeply. If you concentrate on breathing from your core, you can’t also be worrying or judging. It gives your busy mind a break and helps you change your focus. This has worked for me for at least 50 years, so there has to be something to it! And I find it works with animals, too, especially horses. It really helps Apache. And no, it doesn’t have to be special yoga breathing, Zen meditation, or some fancy thing. Just breathing deeply and focusing on it works. The latest issue of Lion’s Roar magazine has great articles on this that would apply to anyone.
- Lovingkindness: What’s that? It’s a Buddhist practice that boils down to sending positive energy/thoughts out to the world. You start with yourself, then your family, then your friends, then people you like, then people you don’t like/don’t know…eventually getting to the whole world. It’s like prayer, and I know there are several prayer practices much like this. One way to do it is just to repeat this, with broadening focus:
May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain. May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain. May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.
I just like the idea of lovingkindness (metta). It really helps me focus on caring about fellow humans, even ones I may disagree with. Read more by searching for it!
My Own Hard Work against Being Judgmental
I know I’ve had pretty harsh feelings and thoughts about people who differ from me, whether politically, educationally, culturally, or philosophically. Sure, I have every right to think I’m correct, since what works for me does work for me. But, I know darned well I’m a product of many things:
- When I was born
- Who raised me
- How I was educated
- The people who surrounded me as I grew up
- What I’ve read (or watched), and not to forget this one…
- How I’m wired genetically
The last one has been hitting me hard lately. I’ve done enough reading on how our minds and bodies work to know that about half of the people in this world see the world one way, and the other see it another…and these boil down into the various dichotomies that have been around throughout our time as humans. Right now it’s liberal vs. conservative in the US, and other things in other places. But it’s there. And it isn’t going to change.
So, for the last few months I have been cutting back on my participation in the divisiveness in the US that’s not helping anyone. I’m going to keep my beliefs, but I’m going to haul out the lovingkindness and remind myself that people who do things or think things I disagree with were raised differently from me, have had different life experiences, are surrounded by a different subculture, and most important, are wired differently from me. This does not mean I can’t get to know them, be friends, or learn valuable things from them. I’m DOING this, dang it.
I know that there will be judgments aimed at me as I try to be more open, because my efforts aren’t exactly being replicated all over the place right now. So, the next thing to work on is not being hurt by judgments thrown at me. I guess these efforts go hand in hand. The past few years, where I’ve lived in a town where I don’t fit in, live with people with vastly different points of view and life experiences, and have not hesitated to share my thoughts have been great practice in not letting other people’s opinions hurt me.
That’s not easy! I get hurt sometimes! But, at least I know that just because others look at me one way, it doesn’t mean I’m bad…just different. The key is to take the nugget of truth or valid criticism to heart, and reject the negative attitude or intent. We CAN learn from people who aren’t always kind to us or agree with us without absorbing the negativity. I’ve got a ways to go, and I’m glad I have role models who are further along with this than me.
But, I can take my breathing and use it to help me get back to a good place, and send lovingkindness out to everyone. That will keep me going as I learn, screw up, learn more, and find new ways to screw up. Now, doesn’t that sound just like a life well lived? It does to me.
Let’s see if we can all work to be less judgmental and more understanding that we can’t walk in other people’s shoes or know all their backstory. Can’t hurt. It might help.