I read a post today that someone shared on Facebook. It impacted me because it so accurately reflected my opinion and thoughts on the topic in general. This gentleman wrote a lengthy post about the tendency for people to judge one another, referencing a particular religion.
I don’t think the judging of others against some personal or cultural standard is limited to members of any particular religion or other group though. I think this is a much broader issue, and while the criteria for judging may vary, it is a problem ubiquitous in our society generally. Brenee Brown writes extensively about the shaming that goes on in the wider world. I have referenced this in another recent blog, “Happiness, Vulnerability and Being Enough”. Many of us are afraid to be ourselves and allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable because we often end up feeling shamed or judged by others.
Why do we do this? It does not bring happiness to the person doing the judging as feelings of superiority are short lived. There is no winner in this scenario. We all end up wearing masks or armour in an effort to protect ourselves from the sting of all these judgement arrows. The idea that we want people to be “authentic” is a trending term as we want to see the “real” person, and yet when they have the courage to be vulnerable, we often end up tearing them down.
Celebrities are often the target for judging and shaming, we put them on the best and worst dressed lists and comment endlessly on their personal relationships. If they come across as too “fake” we criticize them, but if they are authentic and real we still shame them. And we are doing the same thing in our own smaller scale worlds. There may not be an official “list” to put them on, but I know I’ve heard and made negative comments about what other women are wearing. How many women (or men for that matter) could honestly say they have never either made a negative comment or listened to a negative comment being made about what another person is wearing? Parenting? Somebodies contribution or lack there-of to an event (think bake sale, grad or other celebration)? Or dancing, singing, cooking? The list is endless, and perpetrators are male and female, old and young, it is pervasive in our society. If you have ever participated in any of these type of shaming/judging rituals, stop and consider, what is being said when YOU aren’t there?
So why do we judge? Often it is because we are jealous in some way. Perhaps they have the financial status, a role or position, looks, talent etc. which we don’t. We also judge when our expectations or standards aren’t met. For some, it just may be an instinctual habit to complain or find fault. Essentially, we are comparing ourselves against someone else. And when it is in a judging capacity, it is often because we either feel we are in a position of superiority or we come up short in our comparisons which can lead to feelings of inferiority. This can activate feelings of jealousy which can cause us to put others down in order to make ourselves feel better.
It is a vicious cycle leading to criticism and condemnation and finally to feelings of shame and inadequacy. Many of us then don our masks to hide behind or to try and compensate for our presumed inadequacies. This cycle leaves us with no peace and certainly no happiness.
What is the solution? Acceptance, we must remember we cannot know the whole story, the struggles or the challenges we all face. We all want to be accepted unconditionally, but rarely do we extend that same unconditional acceptance to others. This is where the cycle can change. We can choose to accept people at whatever point they are on the journey. We all have different experiences, circumstances, talents, challenges and we use these in our lives in different ways.
Lasting peace and happiness come from learning to accept ourselves and others on an “as is” basis as we journey through life. We are all unique and have a different frame of reference for how we live our lives. In many instances, there is no right or wrong, only my opinion and your opinion. And even when there is a right and a wrong, is there anyone who is always on the side of right? Thus the admonishen to judge as you want to be judged might be applied. None of us are perfect and I think most people are basically good people. If you find yourself engaging in judging, stop and reflect for a moment. Is this who you really are? Who do you want to be? Let me conclude with a few quotes of wisdom to be considered when you ask yourselves those two questions.
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” Buddha
“When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.” Earl Nightingale
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta