“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” – Wayne Dyer
We have all experienced the burden of the opinion of others. At some point or another, we all have struggled with feeling like we are not enough, we don’t measure up, or that people don’t like or accept us just for being who we are. Or worse, that our life choices, our actions, or our expressions of being are somehow less important, valuable that someone else’s.
For about a year, I have been focusing on releasing myself from the expectations and the opinions of others. I can’t say that seeking the approval of others has been a real struggle for me. I am comfortable with blazing my own path. Though I was not consumed with seeking approval, I was highly concerned with being misunderstood.
I guess the two of those things are not so different, seeking approval and seeking to be understood. They both keep you from being entirely free to focus on your purpose. One doesn’t allow you to move forward, and the other keeps you on constant guard waiting to defend your position. Releasing myself from the expectations and the opinions of other people has helped me to hear and respond to the voice of Truth. The voice that is always speaking, leading, and guiding my life’s journey. As I learned to walk in alignment with Truth, I discovered the Truth of who I am and why I am here. My desire to fulfill my life’s purpose is more important than being understood. I can say I truly feel free. I thought that this was where my lesson on judgment would end. Yet there was much more left for me to explore. While I was fully aware of how the judgment of others effected me, now it was time for me to confront my judgment of others.
No one wants to admit that they are judgmental. We go through great lengths to redefine judgment so that we can recuse ourselves from being accused of it. We call it speaking Truth in love, or sharing our opinion, and some times we are doing that. I do believe that it is possible to share perspective without judgment, and for me, it requires me to be mindful of my motive. Am I trying to change or control someone’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors so that they meet my expectations? Am I attempting to be helpful, or am I discerning what someone else’s actions or feelings should look like?
I often have to remind myself that everyone is on their own journey in life. We are all doing the best we can to learn the lessons that life sends us and to grow and expand into more excellent versions of ourselves. It is a personal journey, and it is our reason for being in this physical existence. The decisions we make along the way are apart of the lessons. We will make some missteps, we will make mistakes, but it is part of the journey. Our most important job is our personal lesson. When I focus on my life and my purpose. I can focus on why I am here, instead of placing myself in seats of judgment over others and what they choose on their path.
I thought that I was doing an excellent job of staying away from judgment. Truth is, I redefined judgment for my benefit. My family and I have been sheltering at home. We are only going out for a car drive here and there, a walk around our neighborhood or at a local park. One day we drove past an ice cream stand there were about 20 people were standing outside. There was also a massive line in the Burger King drive-thru, and Gabe’s department store parking lot was full. “How stupid are these people.” I thought. I carried this disapproval for about a week, sharing with anyone who would listen. One day it was brought to my attention that though I was concerned for everyone’s safety, I was deeply in judgment.
First things first, I was offended that someone referred to me as being judgemental. I first tried to dismiss it but observing my behavior, I couldn’t. I am usually and very understanding and accepting of people, why was I being so judgmental? Well, I was really struggling with my own humanity at the moment; my worries, my doubts, my fears. I believed that they were putting themselves and others at risk. I elevated my thoughts and beliefs and feelings above everyone else’s. I was trying to control the situation through shaming and blaming. Hallmark signs of judgment. I had to remind myself that my views and opinions can govern my actions. However, expecting others to live up to the expectations I have for myself is not only unfair, but it is also unrealistic. I allowed my lower-level emotions to get out of control, and that was what made it so easy for me to slip into judgment.
How do we stay out of judgment? By reminding ourselves of our true nature. Our true nature is our divine state; benevolent loving-kindness, joy, creativity, compassion. When we give ourselves over to lower-level emotions like fear, worry, doubt, jealousy, we suppress our true nature. We must learn to be conscious of our feelings and not allow them to snatch us around and conjure up judgment. We must anchor ourselves in our true nature, which is compassion, love, and understanding. We must remember that everyone is on a journey and doing the best that they can. If they are not doing well, we need to choose to be compassionate instead of condescending. We must learn to fully honor, respect, and treat with dignity the choices, ideas, opinions, beliefs, and expressions of others.
This is not an easy thing to do. As we work to better ourselves in this way, an even greater lesson will emerge. We will continue to free ourselves from the opinions of others while growing in patience, compassion, kindness, and understanding towards them even when they do not show us the same. We will become living examples of how to break the cycle of judgment.
“It is not for me to judge another man’s life. I must judge, I must choose, I must spurn, purely for myself. For myself, alone.”
― Herman Hesse, Siddhartha