The word “judgment” has many connotations in English. It can have both a negative flavor (as in someone that constantly expresses superiority over others) or a positive flavor (as in the rule of law and justice). Judging, comparing, and assessing are all aspects of our mind and the human experience. There is nothing inherently “bad” or destructive in any of these words. However, it is in their application that most of us make mistakes that can become burdensome to ourselves and others. Thus we sabotage our happiness and freedom.
As stated above, no term related to judgment has better connotations than justice. Justice is a human invention, one requiring subtly, deep connection to and knowledge of specifics. It also involves a sense of ethics.
However, most of us spend our lives chained to judgment’s shadow in a reactive state. Chronic reactivity, or being repelled by what we experience, can be a kind of prison. Often we judge in the form of pity, in this case, pity being defined as “empathy” from the castle of superiority. “I feel sorry for people like that,” isn’t a helpful, genuine, or constructive emotion or statement. Only genuine inner reflection can reveal just how pernicious these statements really are in your life. For many of us, pity asks nothing of us.
Compare this to compassion, defined here as the ability to see oneself in another and feel genuine care and love for that person. It is a deep resolve to help remedy the cause of the suffering both in yourself and in the world. This asks you to admit how you are the same, even if that sameness is a stretch, to the suffering person. Compassion stands eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart. Compassion usually requires something from us, either generosity, courage, or vulnerability.
Constructive Comparison – Judgment and Compassion
When we have compassion for others, our judgment and comparing seeks only constructive and conscious realizations. For instance, we might see how someone’s bad habits have led to their misery. We can find the resolve to not repeat such a mistake. In this comparison, we are vulnerable because we begin with the recognition that we could have been, or see ourselves in, the person we judge. We resolve to avoid unskillful behavior out of self-respect and love of others, not out of disgust or superiority.
Thus, as you can see, acting ethically often involves less focus on the results of our actions, and more focus on their deep, personal, and sometimes subconscious motivations and intentions.
Self-Love: Letting Go of Self-Judgement
Compassion and judgment can also be directed at the self. For many of us, self-judgment is more debilitating than our constant judging of others. In this case, if the judgment is constructive, it won’t appear with constant repetition or malice, which is usually the case. Harmful self-judgment sounds something like this: I’m so stupid, why do I always mess up when it matters? Or I’m so old and ugly, why bother anymore?
Healthy self-judgment always has a sense of humor and helps us find clarity in what we want out of life. It helps us clarify what we expect from ourselves. Healthy self-judgment compares ourselves to others rarely and only in order to learn skills about how to live, never to inflict pain. Often we can tell what kind of judgment we are engaged in by how our body feels. If we feel tense, contracted, like a knot, we are probably cutting ourselves or others down. If we feel light, spacious, humorous, and gentle we are most likely living skillfully, reacting consciously, rather than trapped in unconscious, unhelpful patterns of judgment.
Judgments = Prison of the Heart & Mind
Judgments can be a form of self-imprisonment. They keep us locked in a perspective of superiority. Many times, this superiority is just a mask for deep insecurities. We judge that which we judge the harshest in ourselves. It can be easy to blame others, as the mask can be elusive. However, we must rise above these thoughts and try to walk in self-guided compassion and empathy. Empathy and compassion are forms of deep self-forgiveness. These emotions and states come from the heart. Judgments come from the ego and have roots in toxic control. If we control the narrative and label things we are triggered by or don’t understand, then it can mimic feelings of safety or comfort. We are comfortable in an untested perspective. The concepts that we are referring to are deep and profound.
Letting go of control and the idea that you are always right can be very difficult. The ego wished to be in charge, label, and understand things to the best of its ability. It does not like to be challenged. The ego like to fully grasp a concept based on past experiences with whatever it comes across. Stepping into compassion is all about the higher self and letting go. A big part of this is walking and interacting with the world in humility.
Humility as a Practice
Humility is a practice in grace. It’s letting go of the ego and seeing all living things as valid. There is an innate beauty in all things. Our small human experience is seemingly insignificant as we look at the remainder of the world. Who are we to judge? What gave us the right to form such harsh and unwavering opinions that we should say that we fully understand and thus can label something as being good or bad? The truth is that we hardly can know what is truly occurring in any given situation. There are so many complexities to the human experience, including that of our own world and that which causes others to do or say the things that they do.
We must see ourselves as valuable and valid, however, we should steer away from forming opinions about matters that we do not fully understand. One great way to see if you are walking in humility is to ask yourself if you are seeing the best in each person or situation. Are you making negative assumptions and choosing to see the worst in people or situations? This is judgment and a downward slope into intolerance.
Compassion is the Easier Road
At the end of the day, compassion is the easier way to take in life. Compassion is about letting go of judgment. It’s about releasing the need to label and be negative. It’s a discipline in peace, and those judgments can no longer occupy your beautiful mind. We only have one life to live, and it is imperative to remember that we do not have all of the answers. We need to remain teachable and humble in order to continually grow into something better. Compassion equals freedom and builds self-esteem. You will know you are a good person when you do not judge and walk in lighter, more positive forms of compassion. Learn more about spiritual growth & awakening.