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Why we do it, and what are the options?
When we were growing up, there were lots of rules to remember. As kids, many of us were bombarded with rules from well-meaning sources such as our families and friends, schoolteachers and coaches, clubs, organizations, society and even strangers. They all offered guidelines for our behavior. These “rules” were designed to teach us many things: personal hygiene and table manners, how to get along with others, how to show respect for people in authority and how to behave “properly” – whatever that means. Rules that started as edicts and guidelines, usually “morphed” into rigid yardsticks for measuring people on the scale of “right-ness and wrong-ness.” As a result of being so rule-focused and having to follow rules in so many areas of our lives, we sort of become “rule-police,” making thousands of right-wrong judgments each day. We have been socialized to view others (and ourselves) in relation to our rulebook.
Depending upon our backgrounds, childhood circumstances and our unique personalities, we each developed a working (and survival) relationship with these “rules.” We made decisions about which rules to follow and which to fight, which to ignore and which rules to endorse and teach to others. For some, following these rules became a safe pathway to approval. For others, NOT following the rules led us down the “heck with you” path which has its’ own unique set of rules.
At some point in our young adulthood, these rules solidified into a concrete customized collection of “rules to live by.” If challenged, we could probably explain the origin and rationale for each rule. We defended our actions, whenever necessary, with the rules in our personal rulebook. Having a personal rulebook has its pros and cons. It serves us well as we move through our lives and interact with people in different situations. However, having all these rules about how to be good (and not bad), how to be right (and not wrong) can also cultivate a not so attractive judgmental quality in each of us. Judgmental in the sense that our feelings and opinions of others can be based on how closely others do or don’t behave in comparison to OUR rulebook. (Sometimes it doesn’t even occur to us that there is more than one rulebook.) How many times have we rushed to judge a person we’ve never met just because they do something outside the parameters of our rules? Ever noticed that our judgments are usually negative? If their behavior, comments or appearance violates any of our rules and we decide that, because of this violation this person is wrong or bad or stupid, we’re being judgmental.
What’s wrong with being judgmental?
Well, actually there’s nothing wrong with being judgmental…that would be a judgment wouldn’t it? It’s just that judgments hurt. So the real question becomes do we want to behave in a hurtful way that has negative impact on others and our self…or not?
A common element of most judgments is that we make a decision about someone without having all the facts--decisions that could impact our relationship with that person. Sometimes we’ll judge another, assuming we all have the same rulebooks or that OUR rulebook is the right one. (That’s a judgment right there!) In many cases, judgments are palpable. Whether voiced or conferred non-verbally with a look or a sigh, when someone judges us, it doesn’t feel very good.
It’s common, in intimate relationships, to see partners judging each other’s behavior. Whatever the cause, judgments can look and feel hostile (anger intending to punish), sarcastic (whether cloaked in humor or just being mean) and controlling. When we’re judging someone, we’re not being very kind or loving. Attempting to change another person’s behavior by withholding love or denying approval leaves the “judged one” feeling alone, angry, hurt, sometimes betrayed-not exactly emotions that endear us to each other. If we are doing this in an intimate relationship, we’re hurting the one we love the most. When we judge someone, the communication breaks down, the love wobbles and the trust weakens. The good news is that there is another way. If differences can be viewed as just that “different points of view” and partners can get curious, intending to understand each other and learn about the rulebook of their beloved, there can be an immediate and positive shift in the relationship. Let’s take a look at some common questions about judgments.
Why do we judge others?
Here are a few commons reason for why we would be tempted to judge someone:
Judging someone as “bad or wrong” gives us a false sense of self-esteem. Feeling better than someone else can feel good when we are feeling badly about ourselves. Have you noticed that really happy people rarely have anything negative to say about anyone or anything?
On the other extreme, some people will judge themselves as “less than” other people as a way to numb their own sad or angry or painful feelings. It’s easier to judge another than to face the responsibility for our own situations. This numbing judgment, along with self-pity or guilt (also numbing feelings) can temporarily feel more comforting and less uncomfortable than our true feelings.
Sometimes we find others to judge as wrong to bolster our need to feel right. Being right is more important than staying connected to many of us. Pointing out the flaws in others is a strategy for some of us. This approach helps reinforce the value of following the rules.
Judging others can make us feel safe. We can hide behind the “right thing to do.” This validates that we are right (or OK) and others are wrong. These judgments are often silent and are used to keep us separate (and therefore safe) from the world.
Sometimes we’ll judge others to end a conversation that’s not going our way. “Well, you’re wrong.” This breaks the connection with another. “Fine!” is the flip side of this tactic. It’s a passive aggressive way to end a conversation that’s anything but OK.
What’s the harm of judging others?
Certainly by now we have covered several disadvantages of judging others. Being aware of where and when we’re judging others is a great first step in eliminating this habit. Judging or being judged is hurtful to any relationship. It disconnects us from feelings of love and that’s the key reason to consider a new strategy. When we’re judging people we don’t know well…or even at all we’re not being very kind. There’s sort of a cold, hard feeling that we carry with us. If we know the people and are around them, they will feel our judgments via our non-verbal behavior towards them. We’ve all done it. We’ve all felt it from others. Also, those of us who tend to judge others often find ourselves at the mercy of our own judgments and are therefore usually very, very hard on ourselves. If we’ve made a mental connection between people’s behavior and their inherent value, then we’re probably doing the same thing to ourselves and that’s hurtful!
What are the benefits of suspending judgments & just accepting others?
It frees up so much energy and attention to accept what is, whatever that means. Again, we aren’t talking about behavior that is abusive or people breaking laws or violating personal boundaries. However if someone wants to dress in a certain way, or wear their hair just so, or cut their meat in a certain way…so what! If someone talks or walks or entertains in a unique way…so what! Letting judgments go frees up your time and attention for more positive things.
It allows more open communications between people. When people feel accepted, they’re willing to be more open, more real and better relationships can develop. When there are misunderstandings, suspending judgments enables people to feel they can explain their feelings and their actions, in the spirit of informing…as opposed to in the fear of being judged and made wrong. Somehow there are fewer misunderstandings when people assume the best in each other and respect each other’s different rulebooks.
We can be more loving when we’re not judging. When we’re more loving, we’re more curious (less defensive) and more open (less blaming) and the people around us feel that emotional safety. Any time we’re around someone we know accepts us and doesn’t judge us, we somehow feel better about ourselves. Isn’t that a great gift to give someone you care about?!
What’s the alternative to judging?
A healthy alternative to judgment is conscious acceptance: acceptance that we each have our own rulebook. Accepting that we each have our own preferences, needs, wishes, wounds, tastes and desires gives us the ability to separate people’s choices from their value and worth as individuals. If we could look at life choices as different flavors of ice cream, it would be so much easier to accept that some of us like vanilla and some chocolate and some wild cherry with nuts. We’re all just picking different flavors of ice cream. No one needs to be bad, wrong or right. If we can accept each others’ choices, and trust in each other to take responsibility for the impact of each choice, then there’s much more freedom for all of us to be ourselves. Out from under the threat of being disconnected or manipulated, going from judgmental to accepting is a great and glorious shift felt by all involved. As we become more aware of the negative impact of making judgments, we can choose to make a new decision going forward.
How can we diffuse our need to judge?
Remember we don’t have all the facts. Walking in someone else’s shoes does make a difference. If we don’t know all the background for a decision, assume we’re missing something that might explain things.
Trust that each person knows what he or she is doing. People rarely do anything without having good reasons. We may not agree, but as long as someone’s choice is not hurting us, give everyone the benefit of the doubt.
Remember that we all had different backgrounds and therefore unique rulebooks. “Not good or bad, just different” is a good mantra for beginning to accept without judging.
Choose the love or friendship connection over needing to have the same rules whenever possible. This feels so much better and gives each of us the chance to explore our own choices without having to fear the loss of love or approval.
Remember how it feels to be judged and decide NOT to have that kind of impact on anyone else. Having compassion for the sting of being judged by others can give us the momentum and incentive to learn a new, gentler approach to accepting differing behaviors and actions.
Get curious. Learn to ask clarifying questions that are intended to teach us something new. There are many ways to do things, many insights and perspectives we can learn about. If we don’t know the reasoning for a choice and we ask about it, from a sincere place, people are usually very eager (or at least willing) to share their viewpoint. Become curious and people feel valued and honored. Suspending judgments and replacing them with acceptance is a great gift to family, friends and strangers. It is also a new approach for accepting ourselves with compassion and gentleness.
All in all making judgments is a choice. When we know it’s a choice, then we have the option to make a new and different one. As we find new and more positive ways to boost our self-esteem and our sense of self-worth, to feel safe from the loss of love and approval and to be more compassionate to others and ourselves, we will find judging others less appealing and accepting others and ourselves will become second nature. That’s not necessarily the right thing to do…it just feels, “Oh so good!”
To Be Or Not To Be Judgmental
A question I have is why some people need to be so rude to each other? Have you met those who like to educate friends? What is it about them that give them the right to pick on others? I believe that we have to let people be who they like to be. It would be awful to have friends telling me what is good for me. I like to make the decisions myself. The best way must be to be asked for assistance in an issue.
Life is about to be learned by ourselves. Otherwise we could stay living with our parents for the rest of our lives. Not meant to be so. I have a friend who actually was my boyfriend. We decided to stay as friends. I did not have the right feelings for him from day one. But since he is such a beautiful man I wanted it to work out between us. He’s been married before just like me.
The problem is that he has never been so in love in anybody before. A lot of issues in his previous marriage that I picked up. I noticed a few problems that I have not been confronted with before. I like to help if I am asked too. He helped me as well with my problems I had at the time. It’s like they say that we come together for a reason, season or a life time. As in other relationships we have friends too. Here s that peculiar situation came up. His got a friend that he was in loved with before I came a long. No problems for me. But she seems to have issues with me. As times went by we split up and became friend instead. Now he’s got nasty e-mails from this woman about how we act as ex lovers and involve new partners as friends.. Well mostly me because I have moved on in another relationship. Where goes the line to interfere in other lives? I wonder…. What does democracy means? How can you support others by telling what is best for them when you do not have a grip of your own life? God forbid me to judge other people and their lives. Let me be as free as I want to be. Help me to free other people from dogmatic people.
The only time I think we can interfere is when somebody is in need of help. Like emergency, violent, aggressive situations. Otherwise thrust in Universe. Have faith and thrust your next person. Most of have faith and thrust in yourself. If you believe in yourself you have the belief in others as well. God bless you all!
The Importance of Acceptance
There are many factors that contribute to an awesome relationship - communication, common interests, intimacy, and the like. One that is often overlooked, however, is acceptance. Many relationships form with one side thinking that they can change the other, but trying to change a person from who they really are will only lead to resentment and ultimately failure. Keep reading to learn about the importance of acceptance in a partnership.
What can you do when you and your partner disagree? What can your partner do to bridge such discord? What works to get your relationship back on track?
IS AGREEMENT ESSENTIAL?:
For the two of you to create and maintain a solid relationship, the truth is that it is NOT essential for you both to agree ... all the time ... on everything. Those areas of disagreement can be harnessed to utilize the BEST of each of your skills -- perhaps, your chef-skills are exquisite; perhaps, your partner is quite proficient at clean up. Together, you have the perfect formula for mealtime harmony!
STRATEGIES FOR ACCORD:
When you and your partner disagree, it is important to have strategies in place to allow you -- together -- to handle the discord in such a way that your relationship can grow stronger as a result! Yes, that's right. You and your partner can disagree ... and the relationship can grow stronger as a result of HOW the two of you accomplish that disagreement.
How can that be? you might be asking.
KEY TO HARMONY:
The answer is Acceptance. Acceptance is key to creating harmony for -- and between -- the two of you. Acceptance means releasing the idea that there is a "right way" and a "wrong way". Acceptance refers to looking at differences from the viewpoint that there can be TWO right ways!
TWO RIGHT WAYS:
Seeing that there can be two right ways means that the two of you now have more to work with. You each have two options -- your original solution and your partner's original solution. When it comes to problem-solving, the more options that are available, often, the quicker and more effective are the solutions that ensue.
THE WISDOM OF ACCEPTANCE:
Acceptance allows you and your partner to act on wisdom. It is the wisdom mentioned in this paraphrase of the Serenity Prayer: "Grant me the Serenity to Accept what I cannot change ... the Courage to change what I can ... and the Wisdom to know the difference".
Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships (Paperback)
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