Eliminating Judgment with Discernment
In order to shift away from judgment we need to replace it with something, and that something, is discernment.
Let's distinguish between the two:
1) Judgment = That's not okay.
Judgment makes us a victim.
A victim says, "I'm at the effect of the problem 'out there' that is beyond my control. Until what is out of my control changes, I can't feel good. Poor me, I'm at the mercy of people, events and circumstances. I'm helpless."
Judgment lacks ownership.
It substitutes subjectivity with objective moral generalizations that condemn someone or something as bad or wrong outright. It suggests 'the Judge' has moral high ground (I'm a good person and they're bad person) and uses judgment as an objective evaluation to make someone lesser-than.
Judgment disempowers us.
Any form of judgment, blame or complaining disempowers us. It suggests the Villain (the one who hurt us or "made us feel a certain way") has power over us, the Victim. But no one can have power over us unless we give it to them.
Judgment lacks boundaries.
Did they make you feel that way or did you allow them to? Why does someone keep asking you to participate in something you have already said no to? Often times, because you haven't directly said no. Rather, you've beat around the bush, indirectly implying that "they should get it." So, rather than take ownership of our personal preferences and responsibility to clearly communicate boundaries, we judge others as bad or wrong.
Judgment is projection-based.
Neuro-linguistic programming teaches us that perception is projection. In other words, what we think we see in the world around us is not actually "out there" but rather a projection of our mind's thoughts, feelings, values and beliefs. One hundred people who hear the same words will hear different things because of their perceptual filters. Some might take offence, some might not. Through the process of socialization, we learn to judge and reject a positive quality in ourselves then project the negative aspect of that positive quality onto someone else. See the chart below for examples.
Judgment is related to low self-esteem.
There is no reason to judge someone if you're happy and accept yourself. Judgment lower's someone else's status in relationship to you which makes you feel better about yourself. It's a form of compensation for perceived inadequacy within us. It's a way of trying to control our self-perception, the image we have of ourselves and the image we want others to have of us.
Judgment is problem-focused.
Our consciousness constricts when we judge. When we orient towards what's wrong our focus narrows. When we judge and complain we tend to perpetuate the problem.
2) Discernment = That's not okay for me.
Discernment makes us equals.
There is no in-group and out-group. We're not better-than and they're not lesser-than. Discernment takes into account the Fundamental Attribution Error (link coming soon), acknowledging the context and life's history that created someone's behaviour. It focuses on connection vs separation and values diversity.
Discernment takes ownership and responsibility.
We can work to improve a situation or dynamic at home or in society without guilting or shaming someone in the process. Ram Dass said, "The world is perfect as it is, including my desire to change it." Rather than judge, we can put our energy into taking action, to be the change we want to see in the world, as Ghandi said. We acknowledge that we are not separate from the problems we see in the world and therefore can be part of the solution by changing ourselves.
Discernment empowers us.
We acknowledge that we always have the power to choose how we respond to any situation. As Viktor Frankl said, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." We choose to be creators instead of victims by seeing how it's never the thing "out there" that is bothering or hurting us but our thoughts about it.
Discernment communicates boundaries.
A healthy boundary communicates what's okay and what's not okay, where I end and where you begin. "That's not okay for me" is a boundary that says, "I won't allow that in my life. It might be okay for others but not me." It sets a standard based on our self- esteem and values that determines how others can engage with us.
Discernment is preference-based.
That's not okay for me. Those words for me at the end turn judgment into discernment. They connect us to and communicate our subjective preferences. There is no need or benefit in judging, guilting, or shaming someone in the process of choosing what we prefer.
Discernment is related to high self-esteem.
There is no reason to judge someone if you're happy and accept yourself. High self- esteem individuals see the potential in others, that we are all equal and focus on building others up without needing them to change or trying to control them. See The Drama & Empowerment Triangle dynamic to understand how to shift from the Help/Rescuer/Fixer role who fixes the Victim, to the Coach-Creator relationship dynamic (Link coming soon).
Discernment is solution-focused.
Our consciousness expands when we use discernment because we're able to stay inclusive of all perspectives. We stay on the same team rather than jumping into competition: me vs. you. We see that we're never separate from the problem and can always take responsibility for being a part of the solution.
Turning our Judgments Around
Through the process of socialization, we learn to judge and reject a positive quality in ourselves then project the negative aspect of that positive quality onto someone else. For example, She’s so arrogant is the judgment of the positive quality confidence. So, to flip the judgment around instead of judging, she’s so arrogant we can say, I wish I was more confident. Notice how our own insecurity and judgment of our lack of confidence were compensated for through our judgment when we put someone else down by labelling them as arrogant.
When we turn judgment into ownership and take responsibility for seeing how every judgment we have about others is actually about ourselves, we reintegrate the fractured aspects of our consciousness by moving towards them instead of creating distance with judgment.
We reclaim these lost aspects of our true self (in this example. confidence) by using an outer judgment of someone else as an indicator that we have judged and rejected something within ourselves.
Therefore, every judgment is a blessing because it informs us that we can return to wholeness within ourselves. It is only through the mirror of relationship that we can see these rejected aspects of ourselves. Take the following table as an example of how we can flip our judgments around:
But, what if someone actually is arrogant? some might ask. This is an important point to understand. Judgments that upset, irk, bother, agitate, or trigger us are the ones we’re looking out for to inform us about ourselves. Otherwise, a relative evaluation (all evaluations have a benchmark which we compare something against) based on our personal preferences that don’t bother or agitate us can generally be dismissed. Whether you’re agitated or not, I recommend asking yourself, Is there anything this judgment or preference is showing me or teaching me?
We see things not as they are, but as we are.
For example, consider Mary makes this condescending remark, Joe always has such a sparkling clean house. Screw that, they must spend so much time keeping it that way. He’s probably such a go-getter who’s always busy. I wouldn’t want that. Let’s break this down. The judgment he’s such a go-getter is really Mary’s insecurity about how much Joe is currently taking action on in his life. Mary compares herself to Joe and feels inadequate, like she should be doing more. Mary’s judgment about Joe is really about herself. She thinks, I should be doing more, so in order to make herself feel better for not taking the action she wants to take in her life, Mary judges Joe.
Judging others lowers their value and makes us feel better about ourselves. In this example, Mary was getting stoned a lot and overeating, feeling bad about her unclean house and unproductivity. So, the turnaround is, I want to get my act together. I’m grateful for this person showing me the contrast I need to see in my life where I want to do better. I want to take more action on what matters to me and keep my house a little cleaner. When we empower ourselves, we leverage every judgment in our favour to build us up without putting anyone else down. There is no need to judge anyone else or put them down if we have healthy self-esteem and are living in integrity with who we are and what we want.
Should and supposed to are hidden judgments.
We tend to make assumptions about people, which are made-up stories that have no real basis in reality to justify our judgments. He’s probably [negative statement]. Probably is a hidden assumption. In many cases, assumptions and judgments are stated as facts so they can be tricky to pick out. In the same scenario, if we weren’t judging ourselves and went to this person’s house, we could notice how clean it is and simply appreciate it without feeling like ours should be cleaner. Similarly, if we were actually okay with our level of productivity and happiness in life, we would have no need to judge the other person as a go-getter and to make up stories about how much work it must take to maintain such an impeccable lifestyle.
We can eliminate judgment of ourselves and others through a process of self-inquiry that allows us to take ownership and responsibility for our own judgments, fears. and insecurities.
We all have a history that informs our behaviour today, so it is the work of empathy – to put aside our perspective to see through another’s eyes – that can liberate us from a paradigm of conditioning – secrecy, guilt, shame, judgment, blame, conflict, and separation – and shift us to a paradigm of empowerment – permission, discernment, responsibility, empathy, and compassion.