Judging others is woven into our society. We judge others’ religious views, appearance, parenting styles and speaking manner. We make immediate assumptions and value judgments on other people’s feelings, past experiences, or hopes for their lives. And while a certain degree of assessment is normal, in the way we assess anything in our physical world, this act of judging is not. At its core, it reflects a deep disconnect within ourselves. It reveals a fractured self, two separate people who live in our heads, one that judges, and the other that is judged.
If you have ever been the subject of another’s judgement, you might be able to relate to the feeling of how intensely uncomfortable it is. When it has happened to me, I have wanted to shrivel up and hide away. I feel a sense of shame, for no reason at all other than someone thinks that I should. And while this is an intensely negative emotional state, it is also an overwhelming physical sensation. After all, our emotions are not just registered in our heads and hearts, they are registered in our entire bodies. In every cell. Every single beautiful cell of mine, innocently minding its own business and carrying out its duties, is judged when you judge me.
Those who are closest to us can hurt us the most with their judgements. In fact, in many families and cultures, this is a way of life. There is a spectrum of our propensity to judge others, and a spectrum of our sensitivity to being on the receiving end. Falling on the more sensitive side of things means we are acutely aware of the physical pain that judgement brings. Being judged, dismissed, or categorized is not a benign action.
If you wouldn’t walk around and punch most people you see in the face, then why judge them? Why ridicule someone for their body, race or religion? Why criticize someone for their life choices, just because they aren’t what you would choose for yourself?
The truth is, despite the physical pain that can be caused by being judged, there is a deep emotional pain at the core of the person who is doing the judging. There is a clinging to the need to be separate, which often breeds loneliness and isolation. Every judgement placed on another is like adding a brick to a growing wall whose only function is to disconnect us from each other. The reason people seek this separation is that they don’t feel secure any other way. Judgement is ultimately a preservation of self-identity.
By learning to be present and comfortable within ourselves, we can be present and comfortable with other people. We can throw out all the labels we apply to others, and instead simply see them. This does not mean we stop assessing others in circumstances that call for it (for instance, avoiding a scary person in a dark alleyway, or deciding who to do business with); what it means is that we stop making judgements about each other’s inherent worthiness as human beings. By stopping this, we stop the physical assault that judgment can be for some people. And most importantly, we can stop the assault on ourselves.