I absolutely love this topic. Of the thousands of people I have met and of the thousands of books and articles, opinions, editorials, and blogs I have consumed, I came to believe that this is an absolute epidemic. Of all those thousands of people and authored writings, I have only seen a handful-perhaps, five or six, who absolutely refused to judge others. Many others, nearly all authors, did not render enough information to assess. Those shadows again.
And as I listened to people and read those things what was I doing? Correct! Judging them.
We can have fun with this topic. In my essay, "Confessions of a Recovering Ego Maniac" I identified groups of people, clinging to their beliefs and egos, in such a way that it was humorous. It is only humorous because we have a collective belief that those stereotypes exist and we accept that. That essay was generated and placed on a competitive writing site wherein people are asked to judge it's value. It has remained at the top of it's category since I first penciled it out.
People are constantly judging and evaluating everything they collect through their five senses and rendering judgments. Good judgment is the litmus test for survival, common sense, and growth. Because good judgment is very valuable we accept it as rational although it is clearly subjective and belief system driven. Good judgment does not fit our criteria of a bad belief system and in fact we are here trying to improve our own.
Let me give you an example of a belief system or perhaps just an insight into a belief system. I once knew a man who habitually carried large amounts of cash in excess of five thousand dollars. He was an older gentleman and we became good friends. One day, I asked him why it was that he carried all that money, all the time. His explanation made perfect sense to me but only because he offered it to me. He said that he had grown up in the great depression. He had lost money as a result of bank failures. The economy thereafter rendered him poor and at the mercy of strangers. He said that he vowed if he ever were to obtain money again, that he would not trust all of his wealth to the safekeeping of banks. In fact he carried large amounts of cash and had some stowed away in safekeeping in the event that a similar situation ever occurred. Thus he developed a belief system as a result of real loss and insecurity. Clearly it was fear driven but that fear was very real to him and in fact he had lived through it. I had not.
His carrying all that dough was a shadow to me, I did not understand it until I did.
What we should focus on here is the very real and negative consequences of uttering negative judgments. Remember that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" cliche'? That old saw is both absolutely correct and absolutely incorrect simultaneously.
It is correct in that the judgments and opinions of others is none of our business. It is incorrect in that words do in fact, hurt us. Sometimes we accept the harsh judgments of our parents and siblings as true. Sometimes we build entire and inaccurate belief systems including lack of self esteem and self worth because of them. Perhaps teachers say things that corroborate those fearful feelings that we have. Sometimes words anger us or cause us to lash out in a never ending game of "one ups man ship" that leaves both parties diminished and hurt.
Characterizing people as arrogant, self absorbed, jaded, cynical, or any of the thousands of ways that we have invented to negatively characterize someone else instantly becomes part of our bad belief system. If we say that Joe is a pussy or a coward, we have instantly uttered an opinion and a belief that we most likely will adhere to. We may have acquired a bad belief which is very often limited to an isolated incident or very incomplete information. We simply do not know whether Joe is a coward or not, because we don't know the history of Joe. The person uttering that statement by implication, believes that by identifying Joe as a coward based on a singular incident, he somehow feels better about himself-perhaps even courageous. In fact that person may even be a coward himself, fearful, and making accusations to bolster his own fragile ego. He is simply living his life directed by that fearful ego that must utter such judgments.
Judging others negatively is insane. We do so ever so freely and with incredibly limited information. By and large rendering harsh judgments gets us nowhere close to emotional freedom. Most people do not respond well to judgment or criticism and they will visit us with their own brand of judgment.
There is one noteworthy exception. If you have established a position of love and understanding, trust, with your target audience it is possible to render a negative judgment that they may see as true, helpful, and well intended. Some people really do have a capacity to listen and change. My belief system says that they are the minority and that I must exercise great caution and timing when passing a negative judgment and I generally have a viable solution when I do. I choose my words ever so carefully. Words are in fact everything-this cannot be overstated.
To attain emotional freedom, I am simply going to refuse to negatively judge people. This is the safest course. If you choose this same path and make a commitment to stop judging people negatively, you should be aware of one other thing. Your past judgments do not clear up over night. People will hold deep seated animosity and resentments if you have left them scarred and they are not going to suddenly see a halo over your head. It takes time and commitment and you will undoubtedly fall back into rendering negative judgments from time to time as situations arise. But at least you will be aware of the impacts and you can always make immediate amends.
You now have recognition and awareness. Once that occurs, it becomes your responsibility to take action if your goal is emotional freedom.
Will we as individuals or as a culture ever recognize just how damaging this is? Can we escape Plato's cave by understanding that negative judgments are simply shadows that we don't fully understand and that we may never have the capacity to understand? I'm not sure. I am desperately trying to escape that shadow filled cave and it's simply too early to render a judgment. So to speak.
Refusing to negatively judge others becomes part of our new operating system. If that system requires new beliefs, the dissolving of our old ego, acceptance, courageous responsibility, and refusing to negatively judge others, we cannot ignore the role of fear and control. Fear and control as we are about to see, represent a big virus that is bogging down our new computer. Recognizing and eliminating that virus is going to bring us operating efficiencies that we never dreamed possible.