First published on the Huffington Post, June 27, 2016
Recently and together, we’ve been in shock, cried, processed and prayed together over what seems to be an increase in news of lost lives. Opinions on how things could be prevented, how the world needs to change are rampant, and we have so many of them. Opinions are okay, and in fact, can be incredibly healthy and eye-opening. Opinions without judgement, more known as the “better than thou” statements, however, are difficult to come by and can inflict an incredible amount of pain to a person, and close-mindedness to a society.
Judgement can be difficult to reign in because it’s accessed so quickly, and without any effort at all for the most part, and therefore isn’t always present on purpose. In fact, I believe that most people go into the “rise above” without awareness that they’re even there. And because it’s so easy to get to, it’s also easy to stay in. From there, well, we simply spiral because often times we don’t know what else to do. While the world can be a difficult, painful place to live in, it’s also full of kind-hearted, good-natured people and beauty. We’re not all spewing negativity, walking around the world casting judgmental, harsh spells on others.
Judgment is one of the best defenses we use to protect ourselves from pain or hurt, sadness or devastation. When we are in judgement our armor is up and so are our defenses. Our attention and awareness is pointed outward not inward which makes it super easy to blame and point fingers. It takes no effort to get there, and since now, it’s not about me, it’s about you, I also don’t have to have any ownership over my feelings. I can walk away unscathed. Judgement is the best defense from relate-ability. You and I, have nothing in common because “I would never,” “could never.” I go about my business and my day, all the while pointing the finger at you and your flaws.
Perfectionism is often lying in the wake of judgement because there is no way my flaws can be seen with my armor on, while I’m drawing the attention toward someone else. I’m going to hustle as much as I can and deflect onto others so others aren’t able to really see me and find out where my flaws lie. It’s a hustle to not be seen, by deflection. Perfectionism, fear and the admittance of our own flaws holds us in the place of a pointed finger. We fear sadness, anger, devastation and the acknowledgement of having acted anything less than our “A” game, that we could’ve been in a similar painful situation. That we could’ve made a mistake, or an accident. We even fear the recognition of the presence of those emotions that we hustle so hard to stay out of them, which in turn, keeps us from having the ability to be empathic. When we are in judgement, we lose the capacity to relate, to empathize and be compassionate, toward others, and ourselves. Judgement is a form of perfectionism disguised. It says, “how could you?” and “I would never.”
What would happen if the pointed finger was put down and nothing was said, or done, just observed? Only then is there an opportunity to also de-armor and, well that’s not exactly safe, nor is it easy because then we’re uncovered, completely vulnerable. In her video on empathy, Brené Brown says it perfectly, “I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.” But again, if I am too afraid of what I might feel, then I have no other choice than to keep myself protected, in judgement. Relationships are not built from judgement and defensiveness. They are built off of raw emotion, and truth, empathy and transparency. I can see you even with your flaws, and you can see me with mine.
It’s not as difficult a task to move from judgement to observation as it is a thoughtful and effortful one. Becoming aware of being in judgement, then naming it as such helps us get unstuck in that place. Instead of casting your opinion by stoning someone, sit with it awhile and see what comes. Wait and observe the feeling and get curious about why it’s there, but even more importantly, get curious about what lies underneath. It’s hard work putting yourself verbally, emotionally and mentally in someone else’s pain or situation and stay there but casting a spell on someone else, never protects you from being casted upon.
“At that very moment when things are difficult,
At that very moment of panic of fear,
that moment of loneliness or anger –
that is actually the key moment for a person who
is wishing to open their heart and their mind,
because these are the moments where life can soften us,
make us kinder to each other and make us more compassionate.”
– Pema Chödrön, from Pain and Compassion.
Brené Brown talks about the process of doing this exact shift in her book Rising Strong. I highly recommend reading this if you seek to shift to a place of observation, curiosity, gratitude and then a new story. It’s an excellent read.