It’s a messy world, isn’t it, populated with messy people intent on being disorderly, disorganized, discordant, contrary, and ragingly dysfunctional.
Except for you, of course, and maybe three of your most trusted friends.
If we’re being honest, we need to add “except for when you actually are disorderly, disorganized, and ragingly dysfunctional.”
All of us are, at some point, absolute shambles of human bits, full of faults, lapses in judgment, and no scarcity of utter stupidity.
Why, then, do we judge others so harshly?
Short answer: Because we see ourselves in them, and mirror images are harsh taskmasters.
To lessen these jumps to judgment, we need to ask ourselves certain basic questions.
What Do We Gain?
Snap judgments are easy enough to reverse, but what about those judgments in which we are deeply invested?
We all know there are certain judgments we simply will not let go. Social media fuels itself on that particularly human foible, and we know how valuable time spent perusing judgments and opinions on the internet is.
Was that a harsh judgment on one of society’s major pastimes? Yes, but stay with me.
We know such time isn’t valuable, nor are the “insights” which we gain from it, so why hold to strong knee-jerk judgments? What do we gain?
As a species predicated on gain, it seems counterproductive to spend excessive portions of our waking hours indiscriminately banging mental gavels.
What Scares Us Into Judging?
Fear is often a reason we hold onto a judgment, even a judgment of ourselves.
We may not want to be seen as opposing a group decision, or may even – to deflect anger at our inability to buck that decision – judge some one or thing much harsher than necessary or deserved.
Yet facing a fear is a basic building block of actual growth and any lessening of anger directed at oneself.
Nowadays, people are told to be afraid of absolutely everything. Fear is the bread and butter of what we call “the news.”
Identify your fears, face your fears, and ask yourself: Were your fears worth damning others for?
Very often, a judgment is a grudge, and it’s no secret that grudges are about as useful as biting one’s own tongue to silence another.
It doesn’t help matters when we factor in the fact that humans are capable of holding grudges even against themselves!
What to do in such a judgment-generating stew?
Learn to forgive.
Forgiving has nothing to do with wiping a slate clean. Forgiving is an acknowledgment that harm has been done but final judgment has not been rendered.
If you can forgive someone’s honest mistakes, including your own, you’re much less likely to sit in judgment of the wide, dishonest, inefficient world.
As said in the opening, no one is perfect. No one needs to be.
Most people (yourself included) are actually decent, caring, capable beings who realize that they, at times, could do better, and will take steps toward that state. Mostly.
As for those slow to read the memos, throwing them under a judgmental bus definitely feels gratifying, but perhaps patience is a healthier option for all concerned?
Accept that others (yourself included; notice a theme?) don’t have the answers. Let people fumble and learn, maybe even learn from you.
For those who refuse to learn, walk away. All the clichés about leading horses to water but not being able to get them to drink are one hundred percent true.
Seek Wider Pastures
One surefire way to be excessively and harshly judgmental is to live within a small scope of experience.
Those who watch FOX News (and yes, FOX News is truly horrendous) point at those who watch CNN (and yes, CNN is truly ludicrous). Both groups might then turn their noses up at those who watch PBS, Al Jazeera, or the BBC.
Meanwhile, any actual facts or reliable data necessary to inform us get orphaned in the wild.
Pop the bubble that you live in. Do it in a small way to start; visit a library. Take a walk somewhere you’re not familiar with and simply observe. Don’t ask questions with answers already pre-loaded in mind.
The brain, like any other part of us, needs movement and a decent diet in order to properly function.
Planting a flag by your foot and standing solely on that one judgmental spot stagnates that marvelous mental muscle we all possess, sometimes beyond effective repair.
Not every battle is yours to fight. That might bear repeating, because for some odd reason our societies have accepted the puzzling notion that an outraged response is a vital response to practically everything.
If you’re constantly raring for a fight, everyone and everything are, by your default, at fault for making you that way.
They’re automatically judged lacking, wanting, inferior, problematic, troublesome, and inherently antagonistic. Any perceived slight is an act of judgmental war.
Stand down, soldier. Stand down and pull out a pocket mirror. Anytime you think someone else is automatically the problem, take a look in that mirror.
Do it as often as need be. There’s someone you need to see, someone you might not have seen, honestly, for quite some time.
Get Over Yourself
Seriously, who made you Grand Arbiter (when, clearly, I am)?
But seriously, if everything and everyone is stupid to you, and there are even babies that need attitude adjustments, who is the grander putz?
At times, harsh sandpaper is needed to whittle down the jagged corners of an overly judgmental mind, rather than fine grit.
So let’s get over ourselves. Let’s get over ourselves by being kinder to ourselves.
Remember, a lot of judgmental behavior toward others is a result of not being happy with who we are.
Being overly self-judgmental is crippling in many ways, not least of which is a constant erosion of self-confidence.
Laugh It Off
This might seem way too simplistic. For clarification: no, don’t laugh off the ability to see injustice inflicted on another; don’t laugh off the need for compassion and empathetic understanding to the victimized; definitely don’t laugh off caring for your own mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Laugh off the small stuff. Just as every fight is not your fight, every fight doesn’t necessarily need to be a fight.
And let’s be additionally clear: a harsh judgment is an act of aggression in one fashion or another.
Unless you’re a judge in a courtroom, most of the things you’re likely to come across during the course of your life simply are not that serious. No gavel required.
Indeed, most of the things any of us become entangled in are usually ridiculous, ludicrous, and howlingly trivial.
Laugh it off. If you can’t laugh it off, let things go. If you can’t let things go, remove yourself from the situation and proceed anew.
Remember that marvelous brain of yours? It loves it when you read to it. Read more. Be varied in your reading. Seek out new words and new realizations.
The act of reading has been scientifically shown to lower stress, improve memory, and make people hella sexy. That last might be less science and more the wishful thinking of an avid reader judging herself, at this moment, less sexy than she truly is.
But make no mistake, she is hella sexy.
Reading increases mental experience, aids the development of empathy and curiosity, and slows the mind down enough to actually see the world rather than experience as a succession of images through the window of a whizzing car.
This ties into patience, ties into expanding one’s bubble, and offers nothing but gain.
Reading should do more than cement biases, it should make life pliable, playful, warm, and nurturing, which are all polar opposites of being judgmental.
I recommend you read “In the Quiet Spaces” by C.E. Young, one: because I know the author and do not pretend to be unbiased; two: because it is a book of inspirations and thought experiments designed almost to be rewritten by you as you read them, a perfect exercise for quieting the judgmental mind.
Don’t Harsh Your Own Vibe
Engaging your day with an eye toward judging everyone takes precious observational resources away from actually seeing any beauty you might come across.
Observation is always much better than judgment anyway. Observation sees the world and alters as it alteration meets. (Shakespeare for the win; see: reading.)
Making observations can be so much less problematic than making judgments, but only if those observations aren’t themselves grounded in prejudice and unquestioned bias.
Don’t harsh your own observational vibe; instead, open up to the possibility that you and everyone you know are wrong about something sometime.
You’ll find yourself much more relaxed, much more emotionally and mentally agile, and generally a better person. People will trust your judgments, rather than look to see which of your knees jerks first.
So we’ll leave with this. It’s a pretty decent quote from writer and spiritualist Gary Zukav.
“No one can occupy your generosity except you. Who can occupy your patience when impatience roars through you? Who except you can choose not to act with judgment when all of your thoughts are judgmental? Your life is yours to live, no matter how you choose to live it. When you do not think about how you intend to live it, it lives you.”
Being trustworthy and worth being around, over being judge and jury? Not hard to judge at all.