Judgement is the enemy of empathy. Empathy is the ability to objectively put oneself in the shoes of another, without bias or pretense. It is the obtainment of a clear perspective, sharing the intimacy of another’s hardship. If empathy were easy, there would naturally be less judgement.
So what exactly is Judgment? Judgment is projecting a qualifier onto another. It comes in many forms and goes by a variety of names. Classifications, rank, titles, labels, gossip, criticism, and putdowns to name a few. This is judgment in the objective sense. The opinion of one or many that may guise itself as truth. Harmless in its objectivity but rarely objective. Judgment in the subjective sense, is simply, a defense mechanism. The Human Mind will go to great length to protect itself from emotion and personal conflict. Consider, it is easier, or rather it feels better to label, criticize, and ridicule others compared to tolerating, understanding, or reconciling with them. Simply put, devaluing others reinforces our sense of superiority or inferiority while simultaneously blaming the subject of our ridicule for our self-imposed sense of superiority or inferiority.
In other words, as long as they are fat and lazy we are lean and hard-working, as long as they are poor then we are financially stable, as long as they are ignorant then we are informed, you see my point. Judgement is not that simple though, often we judge not because we see ourselves as better than others but because we feel we are worse. We resent others because we see them as superior, or rather ourselves as inferior. They are perhaps doing things that we desire to be doing. Perhaps they are physically attractive. Perhaps they have more money. Maybe they hooked up with there girl we were trying to hook up with. The classic hater scenario, you get my point.
Therefore, when we examine judgment carefully, it is, in its purest form, comparison. We are making a comparison of ourselves to others and then project that comparison onto them. This comparison serves two advantages to the individual. It reaffirms their sense of identity, or more precisely, the ego sense of Self. Second, it denies the underlying emotion fueling the judgment.
How do you feel when criticizing someone’s body? better or worse about yourself? Why else do we have a Television shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and celebrity tabloids then to make us feel better about ourselves by poking fun at wealthy attractive celebrities. See, they are not so special after all, they have cellulite and relationship issues as well. Perhaps, we worship these celebrities, which is another type of judgment. The Judgment or comparison of self. In fact, the vast majority of mainstream media is riddles with judgment. However, this is a topic for another time.
We judge because it takes the focus off ourselves. Have you ever noticed that the most judgmental of people are often those who have attempted very little in their lives. This is no coincidence. Seeing others succeed would only make them feel worse about themselves. Therefore, they squash any attempts of improvement or change with harsh judgement. In truth, they are in judgement of themselves and this judgment is projected at others.
So why do we judge? We judge because it is easier than facing the truth. The truth is we aren’t loving and accepting ourselves. If you loved and accepted yourself completely, you would never judge another. Absolute acceptance leaves no room for judgment. For example, If you accepted your body you would not feel the need to shame someone else’s. If you loved yourself completely you would not need to convince yourself you were superior to them.
Now, how do we stop being so judgmental? Most behaviorist would argue that it requires an awareness of the problem followed by a consistent and conscious effort to alter the behavior. I partially agree, as I alluded to previously, Judgment is as much of an emotion as a thought or behavior. Just because you do not call someone a name does not imply that you are not thinking it, more importantly that you are not feeling it. We rarely tell people how we truly feel about them and yet it is the feelings that motivate our behaviors.
Therefore, the answer lies at its source, the emotion. It is a recognition of the feeling that motivated the judgment. Shame, guilt, envy, sadness, fear are common culprits. The paradox is that relinquishing of judgment lies not in suppression but the expression of these emotions. It is in the recognition, acknowledgment, feeling and release of these emotions that judgment ceases. It is no longer a conscious thought. You no longer see others the same way. You seem them as acceptable. You no longer see yourself the same way. You see yourself as acceptable.
How can this be? It is easy to understand when you deduce it to its source. When you catch yourself body shaming someone, you are consciously aware of judgment. If you recognize the reason you are doing so is being influenced by a belief you have about your own body. You can now probe how you truly feel about your body. When you become aware of this feeling, you can accept and allow it. You can sit with that disgusting, uncomfortable shame until it is completely resolved.
It may take a few minutes or four long days. However, it always passes in time. The trick is to stay out of your head during this time. Practices like meditation will allow you to detach from the thoughts that make feelings worse or better. It is wise not to judge the emotion as bad or good. Emotion simply is. It just exists. It is there or it is not. It is unbiased and non-selective. Men and Women, Black and White, we all feel.
The good news is, you will now feel better and more accepting of your body. Your body may naturally change as result of your new outlook. You can now apply this to any judgment you carry; money, sex, race, politics, etc. A good way to catch yourself in judgment is to remember that there is not a better or worse. No one is better or worse that you are. We are all equal. Opinions are quantitative and never qualitative. Unless you allow them to be
Dan McGinley RN BSN