Sunday, May 7, 2017


     Is judgment part of our DNA? I don’t think so. I believe judgment is taught; it is either verbally expressed in such comments as “Boy, look at that guy. He needs a major makeover,” or “What was she thinking?” I was raised by two very critical parents, and as much as I loved them, their criticism resonates with me to this day. If we are raised by criticism, it is very difficult not to be self-critical, and, of course, unfortunately, critical of others—judgmental. I rarely verbalize my criticism, but I must admit I do have critical/judgmental thoughts, as do most people. The only way to fight this tragic flaw is to start being merciful to ourselves. That is difficult for many of us  who have been brought up by perfectionists who wanted us to be the best we could be. Their motives were not malicious; they were, for many, motives of love. The result is the same, however. If we are criticized growing up, we learn that criticism plays a role in our thinking. 

     Some people don’t verbalize their judgment; they model it. They show it on their faces, in their body language, even in their silence. Actually, silence can be the most insidious because when we fill in someone else’s silence, we often fill it in negatively. And we all know “the look.” That was the expression on a parents’ face that said, “You have disappointed me.” 

     I was listening to an interview by Brené Brown recently. She asked Elizabeth Gilbert, author and motivator, how she reacted to reviews once her books were released. Elizabeth said, “I don’t ever read the reviews.” She said it was like John Updike’s comment that reading reviews was like looking for the shard of glass in your sandwich. You keep tasting the good until the disaster happens. “Why would I do that?” she asks. Once we read or hear a negative comment about any performance or accomplishment, it’s that one negative that sticks in our minds, not the hundreds of positive ones. That’s just human nature. 

     Who do you allow to judge you? Who do you judge? What has that person done to merit judging you? What status have you reached that allows you to judge others? 

     Two synonyms of judgment in the dictionary are “appraisal” and “evaluation.” As a former teacher, I was in a position daily of evaluating my students’ progress. Most of the time, that evaluation translated into grades on a report card. We were taught never ever to evaluate, judge, criticize a student in front of his peers. I never did, although I may have implied it in some humorous comment (which is also unacceptable). As a teacher evaluating daily, I find myself even now grading myself on things I do. I even grade myself on how good a wife I am, how good a Mom I have been, how good a friend I’ve been. This may keep me in line and humble, but it’s also anything but a confidence builder. 

     “Quel en est le but?” you ask? (What’ the point?) The point is simple:  Suspend judgment. Replace it by mercy and kindness. Any time we hear ourselves say, “should, ought, best to,” we are judging. Instead, let’s ask ourselves, “How can I reframe this in my mind, so judgment is suspended, and compassion and kindness are its replacement.”