“Before you judge someone walk a mile in their shoes. Then when you do, you’ll be a mile away and you’ll have their shoes.” — Unknown
The Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho writes:
A young couple moved into a new neighbourhood.
The next morning while they were eating breakfast, the young woman saw her neighbour hanging the washing outside.
“That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.”
Her husband looked on, remaining silent.
Every time her neighbour hung her washing out to dry, the young woman made the same comments.
A month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.”
The husband replied, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
Your intolerance of others is largely influenced by the filters you use to perceive them. Regrettably, a distorted lens composed of one’s prejudices and limitations obscures your interaction with people.
You are absorbed in your own reality, to walk a mile in another person’s shoes comes at the expense of judging them.
Judgement signifies a lack of self-acceptance, because you are at war with yourself. To appease your pain, you cast aspersions onto others to feel good.
Judging can become entrenched into your psyche so you become oblivious to it. As you make sense of the world early in life, you label and judge what you like and dislike. Moreover, the mind’s inherent negativity bias means you exercise unfavourable judgement to explain other people’s actions, much to your misfortune.
Judgement perpetuates a destructive mindset since you uphold this negativity when you entertain such thoughts. To overcome your criticism of people, be mindful of your thoughts as they arise.
Equally, self-judgement is difficult to spot because it becomes addictive and you may not be aware of it. At its core, judging others reflects your narrow assessment of yourself.
“If I notice myself judging, I simply witness it and come back to the moment and to what the person facing me is experiencing. If I notice that I am transferring my own fears onto the other, I tap myself on the shoulder metaphorically and redirect my attention to what the other is feeling,” affirms psychotherapist and teacher David Richo.
Your knowledge of others is limited at the best of times because your judgement of them is witnessed through an ambiguous lens. There is more depth to a person than your perception of them.
Judging others offers you the opportunity to become curious. Rather than direct anger towards others, become curious and note where the judgement arises. What could it be advising you?
Conceivably, underneath every judgement is the need for love, acceptance and validation. Unless you get to the core of the issue, you will perpetuate the same disempowering emotions each time.
“Judging is preventing us from understanding a new truth. Free yourself from the rules of old judgments and create the space for new understanding.” — Steve Maraboli
There is seldom any justification to judge others because you are unaware of their values, beliefs and outlook. Whilst you might disagree on their life choices, you are a mere bystander exposed to a facet of their being.
Instead of judging them, contemplate the consequences of their actions. This is likely to reveal a deeper layer to their motivation instead of skimming the surface.
I invite you to see others through the eyes of compassion since your judgement of them serves nobody. I am drawn to the Dalai Lama’s quote, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”
You can become aware of judging others by observing your thoughts at the time. Judgement has a negative felt energy and if you are attuned to it, you can meet it with openness. Therefore, mindfulness allows you to witness your thoughts before acting on them.
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh states, “You have to practice breathing mindfully in and out so that compassion always stays with you. You listen without giving advice or passing judgement. You can say to yourself about the other person, ‘I am listening to him just because I want to relieve his suffering.’ This is called compassionate listening.”
Reframe self-talk by investigating your inner dialogue. Don’t succumb to destructive thoughts, instead confront them with truthfulness, knowing the self-constructed narrative has no authority unless you award it power.
Label your thoughts when you notice yourself judging others. Notice when you are judging and follow the self-sabotaging thoughts.
I use an inner mantra when I catch myself unconsciously judging others. I silently affirm to myself, “Isn’t that interesting.” That thought alone is neutral and does not impose my prejudices on them. Instead, I witness it through the eyes of equanimity.
Another useful approach is to move into your body. You may spend a great deal of time engaged in your thoughts, while at the mercy of believing them. Breathe into your body and become mindful of your body sensations.
Exercise and movement is useful to dissipate negative emotions. I’m amazed how good I feel following a brief jog or a resistance session which disperses the cycle of habitual thoughts.
Emotionally resilient people avoid judging others because they recognise the futility of it. Instead, they channel their strengths rather than feeding their weaknesses.
It is vital to heal your pain and resolve the wounds of your past.
Dr. Alex Lickerman writes in The Undefeated Mind, “For if we can approach people first and foremost not with judgement but with curiosity we’ll have taken an important step on the journey to compassion and thus to an undefeated mind.”
To condemn others perpetuates a fear-based mindset and deflects having to look deep into yourself.
As the opening story invites you to consider, seeing others through a darkened lens is toxic to your emotional wellbeing.
Not only do you form a distorted view of people, you diminish your self-worth and project your unresolved emotions on them, instead of meeting them with compassion.