• Reflective Resources

J is for not being Judgmental

“The nature of clouds and water is to flow. Going on, moving with dignity in space, full of vibrant life and adapting to conditions. If an obstacle arises or an obstruction is met, clouds and water find a way around. They do not judge that which arises before them, nor cling, but embrace it and flow around or through it in their pristine activity.


The true nature of our heart is the same: vibrantly alive, neither clinging nor resisting, but responding to the needs of the occasion, to that which needs to be done.”


Rev. Master Mokugen Kublicki (Larger extract 'Like clouds, like water ' here)


Definition


There is a difference between making observational, informed judgements and being judgmental.


Judging is concerned with forming an opinion or coming to a conclusion; and essentially it is also about being able or qualified to form an opinion. Judging people is a natural and important part of human nature and of society. It is important to be able to evaluate the people and situations in your life in order to be aware of any level of risk that they may pose to yourself, your loved ones or your community.


When we are judgmental however, we exhibit an excessively critical or unhelpful standpoint; we condemn, nit-pick, find fault with another person, a group of people, an idea or situation and don’t make a positive or constructive contribution.


Being judgmental can make you close-minded and unable to see the whole person or the bigger picture. People and scenarios are complex it is rarely the case that a person or a scenario is all bad so, but when you are judgmental, you close out the possibility of good in others or opportunities to turn a scenario around


“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” Wayne Dyer


Observational judgements comes from a balanced and neutral mind whereas being judgmental often originates from an imbalanced and reactive mind that is seeking to protect itself from being hurt by others. It can react in fear or anger or ridicule what it doesn’t understand.


“It’s easy to judge. It’s more difficult to understand. Understanding requires compassion, patience and a willingness to believe that good hearts sometimes choose poor methods. Through judging we separate. Through understanding we grow.” Doe Zantamata


Using (good) judgement to identify and apply a value based code of conduct when dealing with people or scenarios requires perceptiveness. By using reasoning and understanding rather than being judgmental, labelling things, being small-minded etc (which does not deliver or produce value) it allows you to continually learn and progress.


The opposite of being judgmental (i.e. being non-judgmental) is about being accepting and non-critical


What is being non-judgmental?


“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”

William Shakespeare (Hamlet Act II, Scene 2)


Being non-judgmental means that you don't categorise something as 'good' or 'bad' or 'right' or 'wrong' but instead you just observe it or experience it without emotion or trying to understand a situation, your thoughts, your feelings, your actions or those of other people.


Our mind is a natural judging machine – filtering and categorising our experiences into positive, negative or neutral but it is not helpful when the judging crosses the line, as a natural defence mechanism, into being judgmental. Judgments are merely based on our personal opinions and experiences, neither of which are great measuring tools. Judging others also happens subconsciously, without us being aware that it’s part of our internal dialogue.


The practice of stepping back, being aware, then observing thoughts and reactions without any attached emotion is known as Cognitive Defusion and is one of the cornerstones of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy developed by Dr. Stephen Hayes. ACT combines Cognitive Behaviour Therapy principles with Mindfulness techniques.


The Observing Self allows you to observe every thought, feeling or memory and see them as what they are, neutral; simply a collection of pictures, images and words ‘interpreted’ by the Thinking Self.


Thoughts are not facts, they are judgements, evaluations and opinions by the Thinking Self but by ‘defusing’ our thoughts we can become more objective and see things more accurately which gives us greater freedom in how we respond to the feelings associated with them and avoids jumping to conclusions, making decisions based on all-or-none thinking and helps us maintain healthy relationships.


Why being non-judgmental is important in our relationships


"Reality is much more complex than any judgement of right and wrong encourages you to believe. When you really understand the ethical, spiritual, social, economic, and psychological forces that shape individuals, you will see that people's choices are not based on a desire to hurt. Instead, they are in accord with what they know and what world views are available to them. Most are doing the best they can, given what information they've received and what problems they are facing." Rabbi Michael Lerner


It is in our nature to judge others but invariably we do so without really knowing a person or their intention.


“Don't judge a book by its cover” George Eliot (The Mill on the Floss 1860)


When we are judgmental towards others it puts a strain on relationships as our views are often based on our biased perceptions and assumptions rather than facts . Judgmental behaviour reflects our personal agenda and preconceived beliefs and opinions and if left un-challenged will affect every relationship, be it personal or professional.


"We are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, and very good judges for the mistakes of others." Paulo Coelho.


Most people, when they have a problem with someone else, will focus on what is wrong with the other person or they did ‘wrong’ and believe that any problem would get better if the other person changes but as a familiar quote from the bible says (Matthew 7:3-5)


“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”


It is important to remember that we are all imperfect and when we are judgmental it is more about our own insecurities, limitations, comparisons, superiority complex or unmet needs.


“Understanding trauma and that we each respond to it differently will help us be supportive and non-judgemental toward each other.” Stephanie S. Covington


When we have a judgmental, closed-minded approach it becomes a barrier to healthy relationships. It is easy to find ourselves stuck in a spiral of negativity. Our negative bias comes to the fore and we make moral evaluations about everyone we meet, focusing on any negative aspect, expecting and consciously or subconsciously looking for the worst in others. In so doing we are unable to be open to listening and understanding others, we build distorted perceptions and this destroys trust and intimacy.


To have healthy human relationships they need to be based on compassion and empathy not judgement


Why being non-judgmental is good for our health


“Recognizing the injury in all of us and cultivating our capacity for non-judgmental presence, is an ever-evolving process.” Bonnie Badenoch


Judging affects your emotions, causes your thoughts to spiral and has a less than helpful effect on your physical health but when we are able to develop awareness (of when we're being judgmental) and practice non-judgment it can change our life in many positive ways. Studies show that when we judge people and circumstances less, we can greatly improve the quality of our life and reduce stress, anxiety, and stress-related illnesses.


Being judgmental creates the conviction that the people that we are with or what we have right now simply isn’t good enough. By letting go of judgment, however, we can open ourselves up to appreciating the myriad of positive qualities of where we, and others, are right now, which allows us to feel content, grateful and satisfied in the present moment.


“You are at peace with your world when you don’t judge others. Learning to be non-judgmental is an art. And you learn this art through discipline. You learn by choosing not to comment, not to offer opinion on the actions, comments and lives of others. Being silent is key to being disciplined – and to being happy!” AVIS Viswanathan


When we find ourselves in a new environment or with new people, it can sometimes fill us with fear and assumptions and prejudices can come to the fore but when we learn to set our judgments aside and try something new or engage with others with curiosity then something magical can happen and we open ourselves up to the possibility of new and exciting, life-enriching, experiences and connections which can change the course of our lives life and open up new worlds to us.


When we act authentically; without judgment, we enable others to do so too and we are able to communicate effectively at a deeper level. Communicating without judgment allows us to stay in the present moment, listening intently, being fully engaged and curious, being able to reflect upon whatever the other person is saying and responding in a healthy positive way.


How to stop being Judgmental


Paying attention, becoming aware and admitting that we can be judgmental is the first step to making changes in our perceptions so we can take a step back and see things with an non-judgmental eye. (Sometimes we might not be aware that we are being derogatory.) By becoming self aware we can learn to catch our selves being judgmental, then make an intentional choice to do something different


The next step is to start noticing the thoughts you have about others that err on the side of criticism. It is sometimes useful to spend time trying to discover the true reasons behind our critical thoughts because the sooner that we can deal with them and work on letting go then the sooner we can move on with our lives and build healthier relationships with others.


Meditation and breathing techniques can help us ground ourselves in the present moment away from the conditioning of our mind. If we catch ourselves being judgmental, we can use the breath to take a pause and giving ourselves the time necessary to remind ourselves that by judging, we don’t define others, we define ourselves.


(As mentioned above) the practise of defusion can be used to allow ourselves to engage with our thoughts in a more healthy manner


Practising being curious and thinking about the questions we ask are skills that can be worked on and developed i.e. learning to ask questions to draw people to us (asking questions to find common ground) rather than questions coming from a place of judgment that push people away


Conclusion


“One gift of non-judgmental, agenda-less presence is that a wide road of acceptance opens, so that the inner world of our people gradually begins to sense, experience and trust that every part is equally valued and equally welcome.” Bonnie Badenoch


Our world would be a better place if we strive to be more curious and less judgmental. Judgment serves a purpose but whenever that judgment gets in the way of showing up as the best version of ourselves and allowing others to do so too, then we retain a fixed, rather than a growth mindset, and we are unable to have healthy connections with each other.


Being non-judgmental benefits us all and if we deliberately surround ourselves with those who care for us rather than are judgemental towards us, we feel connected and valued and are motivated to care for ourselves and each other more.


By embracing the diversity of one another, we can live a creative and solution orientated life, and are able to draw on more experiences when we respond to the troubles of our times


Each time we can raise our awareness and become a little less judgmental when we interact with others we are working towards a healthier world, one conversation at a time


“If we all unite and commit as individuals and as a global community we could work toward the goal to bring everybody to their best selves” (Adam Khamis) and use our diversity of strengths to combat pressing global issues e.g. poverty, hunger, climate change etc




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