A Day Without Judgment (Is it possible?)

By on December 4, 2013 in Health and Wellness with 0 Comments

pensive by lakeMost spiritual paths call for believers to practice non-judgment. From the Buddha to Jesus to talk show TV, we hear, ‘Don’t be so judgmental’ and ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ We know that we’re not supposed to judge, but what does that actually mean?

Seeking inner peace always just seemed kind of…boring to me. How could I not make judgments? I make thousands of judgments a day—“Do I choose this thing or that thing? Oh, this thing is better; I’ll choose it.” How could I live if I didn’t make choices, and how can I make choices if I don’t make judgments? Am I supposed to walk through life like some kind of automaton, gazing at everything I see but making no judgments, good or bad? Sounded more like being one of the living dead.

The controversial spiritual text, A Course in Miracles, says that we actually have “no neutral thoughts.” This idea gave me some comfort in my quandary with non-judgment. The Course states: “[E]very thought you have brings either peace or war; either love or fear.” That made a lot more sense to me, and it gave me a black and white standard by which I could judge—monitor—my thoughts (See? Another judgment—it was unavoidable!).

Perhaps I was misinterpreting non-judgment, or maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough. After I thought about it for a moment, I began to wonder, “Had I ever really, consciously tried to practice non-judgment for any period of time?” It seemed like, in the past, whenever I started considering this, I automatically began justifying my judgment with all of the reasons it was clearly impossible, instead of actually attempting it. Could this simply be a knee-jerk response of my ego, trying to hold on and run the show? I was determined to find out.

That night, I decided I would wake up the next morning with an attitude of non-judgment and see how long I could maintain it during the course of the next day. But I skipped my journaling and went straight to work. After I’d thought a few ugly thoughts, I figured the day was shot. I’d just have to be perfect tomorrow.

This cycle continued for about a week. I vacillated between half-heartedly attempting not to judge and beating myself up when I fell prey to a petty grievance or tacky observation. I’m sure I could’ve tried harder (there I go again), but that’s what happened.

However, I was conscious of my judgmental thoughts over these few days, and that, I discovered, is what’s really important when it comes to affecting change. Being conscious of the judgments I made, I suddenly felt like an ugly-hearted person, constantly labeling others as “too” this or “not enough” of that. I saw the way I pointed out the flaws of attractive people and demonized individuals with beliefs opposed to mine.

In social situations, I seemed to automatically group people into categories. Some people were too good for me, too attractive or successful, and that pushed me away. Others had attributes that I felt superior to; hence, I pushed them away. These mental constructions of worth directly triggered my emotions, from positive extremes to negative attitudes that made me want to either sulk or act out.

By watching my behavior over the course of a week, I discovered that my days were less judgment-ridden when I paused and wrote in my journal before beginning the day. Confronting three blank sheets of paper forced me to put down in words what I was thinking and feeling. I found that, when I didn’t journal and unresolved or unarticulated issues were floating around in my mind, I was far more apt to point fingers, get frustrated at external events, or demoralize myself with harsh self-talk.

On days when I would complete my daily goal of three journal pages, I would feel considerably calmer, more forgiving and more clearheaded, having set down in writing all of the extra thoughts that were bouncing around in my head.

I finally decided that an attitude of non-judgment didn’t mean not having opinions or preferences—you like the pink sweater more than the gray one. That’s fine. You’d rather write children’s books than work your current job, go for it. We usually make changes in our lives based on the factors that we’re dissatisfied with. The problem comes when we dwell in the negative.

You can identify negative judgment when it does one of two things:

  • It either debases another being, event or object in an attempt to make us feel better about our own attributes, relationships or accomplishments.
  • Or it makes us feel like our own attributes, relationships or accomplishments are unsatisfactory. This is usually followed by feelings of shame, despair or hopelessness, and more judgments are usually formulated in order to soothe the stung ego.

Use your feelings as your guide. Basically, any judgment that would potentially make you or someone else feel bad is negative judgment. Many of us tend to gauge the world in terms of “me vs. them” or “better than/less than”. An alternate way of moving through life would be to see differences in the world as simply that—differences. You might have things that you would prefer, but that doesn’t have to make other things “bad”.

This does not mean you should judge yourself for having judgmental thoughts. That’s double-judgment, and it won’t help your outlook a bit. Instead, when you catch yourself having these types of thoughts, acknowledge them; allow yourself to have them. Ask yourself, “Is this helpful?” Then, reconsider the thoughts themselves.

Negative judgments, when we logically dismantle them, are seldom 100% true. They are generalizations, all-or-nothing statements, and unnecessarily ugly spins on the truth. There is always a more positive way to look at a negative judgment. Sometimes, after we’ve reconsidered a harsh thought about ourselves or someone else, we find that we actually feel the complete opposite.

Life is a process. I’m not going to drop my judgmental reactions to life in a single day—a week, or even a year. However, becoming conscious of my judgments helped me to see a new possibility for growth in my life. The more I learn to reconsider my snap judgments and let go of the negatives I’m hanging on to, the more I open myself to all the good life has to offer. In a single, reconsidered thought, I am able to boost my Emotional, Social and Intellectual Wellness, all at the same time.

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