Most of us are familiar with the embarassing, ego-deflating sting of being judged by someone else. We easily recognize the moment when we look down and say to ourselves, “Wait? I’m not OK?” Being on the other side of a judgmental interaction — being the judge — can be harder to recognize. And yet, spiritually, judging others is more detrimental to ourselves than being judged. According to the mystics, the way and the extent to which we judge others is the way and extent to which our Creator judges us. In order to live in harmony — spiritual harmony as well as interpersonal harmony — it’s necessary for us to refine the way that we judge others.
Some Judgment Is Necessary; Not All
Discernment is one of the many intellectual capabilities that humans have been blessed with. As they say, “When a man with money meets a man with experience, the man with experience ends up with the money, and the man with the money ends up with experience.” We need to use our experience and knowledge to protect ourselves and our families. Judgment is necessary for survival…in the form of discernment. We were given the gift of free choice, including the choice to be compassionate or to judge others (and ourselves) harshly.
Which Judgment to Avoid
What’s the difference between discernment and judgment? Discernment is helpful; judgment is harmful. You’ll know if you are judging someone — rather than exercising discernment — by how you feel. Do you feel resentful? If you feel resentful, then you’re judging someone. Discernment is objective clarity, as in “this is not for me”; judgment is personalizing it, as in “something must be wrong with you.”
An Example to Illustrate the Difference Between Discernment and Judgment
Let’s look at a common, every day activity: Shopping at the grocery store. The aisles are crowded. Another shopper is blocking your way. As you impatiently look at your phone counting every second that you think you’re wasting, this is the monologue that you might hear in your head:
Discernment: “Let me find a way to get past this shopper. I’m going to say my most polite, ‘Excuse me.’ This store sure is crowded! I guess we all needed to come here at the same time.”
Judgment: “She is so selfish blocking the way. She thinks she’s the only shopper in this store.”
Big difference, right? How do you feel when you read those two different internal monologues? With the first monologue, demonstrating discernment, there’s no resentment. You’re aware that there is a problem (you’re in a rush and another shopper is in your way), but there’s no resentment associated with it. With the second monologue, you are looking at another person in a negative light, blaming her for being in your way.
Exercise: Recall a time when you got annoyed at a stranger and try to remember your internal monologue. Now renarrate it in a way of discernment, rather than judgment. Record your answer in MyMLC.
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