In my over 25 years of working with clients and along my longer life’s journey, I’ve come to realize that judgment is the greatest source of human suffering. If you look at the world around you or the world within, everywhere you see struggle and strife. In this reality, it’s all about “I’m right, you’re wrong,” or “You’re right, I’m wrong.” It’s a polarity, a duality. Everything is seen in these dualistic, either/or terms – right and wrong, good and bad, light and dark, etc. This polarized way of looking at things creates abuse in all its forms – war, cruelty, violence, persecution, religious strife and self-abuse. How does it do that? Here I will focus my attention on what we consider to be negative judgments. Positive judgments can be a problem too but I’ll discuss those elsewhere.
Judgment breeds toxic emotions like fear, rage, hate, shame, guilt, and regret, which spawn from limiting beliefs such as, “I’m/You’re not good enough,” “There’s something wrong with me/you,” etc. These toxic thoughts and beliefs have a damaging effect on our bodies, minds, and spirits. If you look at the studies that Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto did on water, rice, and plants, for example, you can see how plants that are yelled at or bullied will wither, whereas the ones who are given encouragement will blossom. The study of psychoneuroimmunology and epigenetics has shown repeatedly that stress and the emotions that cause it such as anger, grief, and shame, can lead to disease of various kinds including cancer, heart disease, and even death (check out Dr. Dawson Church’s books Mind to Matter or The Genie in Your Genes or Dr. Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief for an interesting read on this).
I would argue that all of these toxic emotions derive from judgment and the projections and expectations that it creates. When you are living in resistance to what is, and judging that things should be different, it creates stress and upset. “I should have done better,” “It shouldn’t be like this” – this “shoulding” sets us up to have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others (e.g., perfectionism). It causes us to resist what actually is, which contracts us energetically, causes conflict (internal and external), blinds us with emotion, and makes it far more difficult to create change. And what is it that you are trying to change? You can’t make people change. You can’t control how they judge you. What you can control is how you respond to it, by whether or not you choose to make yourself wrong. You can let others’ judgments affect you, or you could choose to say, “Interesting point of view that they have that point of view.” Because what if judgment isn’t even real and it’s all just an IPOV?
A lot of people think that we need judgment, that somehow it’s good for us. It supposedly motivates us to do things, to be a better person. Without it we would be lazy, good-for-nothings. The problem is, if we weren’t judging ourselves to be bad or wrong or not enough in the first place, we wouldn’t need to whip ourselves into doing better. And the reality is that using judgment in this way rarely creates the intended outcome; instead it just paralyzes us with fear (like fears of failure or fears of making the wrong choice), self-doubt, and shame – the most toxic and isolating emotion of all.
When you are judging yourself and/or others, you are creating separation and cut-off. You reject others and yourself, and you disconnect from your Essential or true Self – the spirit you are which is perfect and whole. This leads to a sense of brokenness, isolation, and depression. It is at the root of many addictions and self-destructive behaviors, which end up getting projected all-too-often these days onto the world, leading to violence, racism, terrorism, wars and suffering on a global level.
Another limitation of judgment is that it creates a scarcity mentality – the “not enough” of everything – not enough time, not enough energy, not enough money, not being enough. The universe, and our planet in particular, is an incredibly abundant place. The whole “ask and you shall receive” thing really does work, only most of us are not conscious of what we’re asking for. When we are functioning from these “not enough” beliefs, the universe will deliver to us experiences which match that belief – i.e., your point of view creates your reality. If you believe that you don’t deserve to be happy, then you will attract the people and situations that mirror back to you and confirm this belief. If you believe there’s not enough money, then your blinders will be on and you won’t even notice the subtle possibilities that the universe may be trying to deliver because you are so focused on your limited point of view.
In other words, judgment limits possibilities. It is a dense, contractive energy that tends to solidify and polarize things rather than allow for the space of possibility and change.
So how do you get out from under judgment’s thumb? It takes practice and awareness. You have to notice when you or others are doing it, so start paying attention to your own self-talk and others’ talk. Listen for the judgments. When you notice them, start questioning and challenging the judgments. Ask: Whose point of view is this? Is this actually true for me? If I were choosing just for me, what would I choose?
You’ll see that judgment tends to contract you energetically. It makes your muscles tense, and you sometimes just want to curl up and be small. Don’t give in to that urge. Instead, expand your energy field out. Get as big as the room you’re in, the building you’re in, etc. Keep expanding out in all directions until you’re as big as the whole universe, which is infinite and ever-expanding. This allows you to get in touch with that Essential Self that exists beyond all space and time and realities. In that space, you can perceive the judgment for the lie that it is and you have greater access to other perspectives and possibilities.
You can also use the tool I mentioned earlier of IPOV – “Interesting point of view this person has that point of view,” “Interesting point of view I have that point of view,” whenever you are faced with a judgment. Say it again and again until the energy lightens up. This gives you some distance from the emotional charge of the judgment and allows you to question its truth (I made a video about this tool. You can watch it here).
Another great way to counter judgment is with gratitude. The energies of gratitude and judgment simply cannot exist in the same space. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong, ask What’s right about this that I’m not getting? Or if you are judging you, What’s right about me that I’m not getting? What can I be grateful for here? What’s the gift in all this? What would it take for all this to turn out greater than I could ever imagine?
Because when it comes down to it, judgment is choice. It’s a choice you make every day. You can align and agree with all the judgments in the world, you can choose to resist and react and defend against those judgments, or you can ask, What’s beyond all this?
What is beyond judgment? What would be like if we lived from kindness, caring, allowance, connection and oneness with ourselves and the world around us? Would the problems of the world still exist? Would there actually be any suffering?
To end, I will share my favorite quote from the 13th century Sufi poet and mystic Rumi: