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July 10, 2012

We Are Not Perfect: Replacing Judgments With Compassion

IStock_00contemptllWhile on vacation, I found myself tuning in to the various people all around me.  Some people were strangers and some weren’t.  It was interesting to listen to the moment-to-moment interactions of our world.  I was struck by how much people comment about one another and how often these comments are unkind.

We humans seem to almost unconsciously rate one another, and in effect, rate ourselves as well.  There’s nothing like feeling better about our own weight when we see someone else a little heavier, wider or flabbier than ourselves.  What better way to feel relief about my bad hair day than seeing someone else’s hair looking worse than mine.  If Joe Stranger is snapping at his partner, then I get to feel better about my own partner.  Rating others can almost feel like an esteem boost for our own selves. 

Only it’s not.

Being critical and judgmental of the mistakes, clothing choices, life choices, etc., of others, leads me to be more anxious, judgmental and contemptuous of my own.  I wonder what it would be like if we humans truly tried to treat others as we would want them to treat us?  Besides it being a huge challenge in mindfulness, the truth is...it feels good. How do I know that?  Because when I’m able to see someone’s mistake as simply being part of his or her humanity, I find myself feeling a little better about my own humanity.  It’s as though giving someone else a reprieve for his or her foibles in turn gives me a reprieve.

You see, we humans have a knack for protecting ourselves at all costs.  When we feel judged, we feel pulled to judge.  When we feel attacked, we often want to attack.  When we feel less-than, we want to feel better by making someone else feel less-than.  We can think of this pull as part of our hard wiring for protection; it is not a horrific thing, simply a human thing.  However, although we are hard-wired to protect, we are not hard-wired to be mean.  This impulse to judge others can be tamed…and should be tamed for our own sake as well as others’.  The reality is that just because I can make fun of someone’s clothing choice or body type or [fill in the blank], does not mean that my clothing choice, body type or [fill in the blank] is any better. 

We are all human beings, wanting to belong, be liked and to just be accepted.  When we can learn to help others feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, we also help ourselves.  When I’m able to have compassion for another’s struggles, mistakes and humanity, it feels better inside me.  In turn, the other person also feels better. 

What a gift for two people needing a bit of a break on perhaps a really tough day.  SO the next time you find yourself making a snide comment about someone, slow yourself down and, instead, give them the gift of compassion and acceptance.  We’re all just human beings wanting to belong.  Perhaps the next time some kind soul will do the same for you.

Challenge: Pay attention to the way you speak about others, think about others and rate others.  The next time you feel the pull to make a snide comment or sit in judgment of someone’s clothing, weight, choices, etc., stop, breathe and show compassion (in your head and out of your mouth).  Notice how this switch feels.



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We can actually learn a lot about ourselves through the judgements we make about others. Try letting it all out about a person (in your own company only), and listen for your unmet needs. In this way you can learn so much about yourself.

I believe it depends on the circumstances. If a boyfriend has been exploiting you with unusual act, judging him would not be as bad. Would you believe he loves you if he is exploiting something unusual? In relationship, judging a potential partner or a partner would be a way to find if he really cares about you. If the judgment is reversed back to you rather than listening and explain his/her side about the issue, then that person really doesn't deserve you.

Thank you for posting this today; it comes at a perfect time for me. My boyfriend and I just split up last week, and we've been breaking the news to our friends and family over the last few days. It's so easy to slip into, "well he was THIS way and THAT way and I just couldn't take it anymore," but we've been really trying to focus on being as positive about each other as we can. This is a great reminder that people are just DIFFERENT -- and not in a "good" or "bad" way.

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