Letting go: judgement of self and others

I’ve had a lot of comments from my avid readers.  As much as they enjoyed the inspirational life stories, a much-needed dose of the usual ‘tales to inspire change’ is well overdue.  This week will introduce a new series: letting go.  I will discuss the issue of judgement – of self and others.  I wonder if it’s high time the ‘I will be the judge of that’ becomes ‘I won’t be the judge of that.’  Maybe releasing your judgement of others or self could lead to a more peaceful and harmonious life.  People tend to judge themselves based on other people’s perception of them, this is unfair on themselves because what other people think of them should be none of their business.

The kind of judgement I’m talking about here is not the one you need for survival, that is the evaluation needed to assess whether a situation calls for fight or flight.  The judgement I’m talking about is usually condescending in nature, and its sole purpose is to make the judge feel superior and the judged inferior.  The criteria used for this judgement is based on personal beliefs and standards which in most cases are rigid, subjective and unreasonable.  Some people use these judgements against them as launching pads of their own perceived deficiency.  Sometimes these judgements come in handy when one is feeling sorry for themselves or want to elicit pity from others.

Sometimes I judge people!  Sometimes you judge people.  We all do it…. There I said it!  And there’s nothing to freak about, it’s part of being human.  However, being in a constant state of judging others, living your life based on your judgement of people, or living your life based on others’ judgement of you will hold you back from living a fulfilling life.  Is it high time people cleanse themselves from the bondage of being too judgemental?

One step in relinquishing judgement of others in order to live a harmonious life is by identifying what the judgements are, and why you hold them.  For example, if you had a bad encounter with a drunk Kenya who was impotent, do you define all Kenyans by that standard?  Or you were harassed by a loud Nigerian in a bank, do you label all Nigerians as loud and pompous?  Or you meet a fierce feminist woman who thinks all worldly problems were created by men, do you judge all women as self-centred men haters?  The list is endless.  If you are brave enough to remove generalised judgement of others, you may find peace and harmony in your life.  If you can’t, try this – next time you are about to judge someone [based on generalised stuff], put yourself in their shoes, think of their feelings and the likelihood that they have a family just like you do.

This, of course, is not as easy as ABC.  There are extenuating circumstances where one feels entitled to judge others based on previous horrendous and scarring experiences with these people.  For example, if someone bullied you relentlessly in your childhood, you might feel entitled and justified to judge and label them as narcissists and selfish.  But what if they ‘grew’ up and changed?  Are they not deserving of second chances?  And because when we judge such people negatively, we tend to avoid them, then you will never get to find out if the bully changed.

On the other hand, people who have committed greater crimes against other people, are they too deserving of second chances?  That person who killed someone’s child.  Or that pervert who raped someone’s daughter.  Are such people entitled to the same – second chances and benefit of the doubt?  Such situations present complicated moral dilemmas because most people think criminals like these have no respect for life and should be accorded the same treatment.  There is also the perspective of the victim – no one would judge them for what they think of such people.  This discussion cannot be covered in one paragraph or post, so I’ll let you ‘be the judge’ – no pun intended.

I know it appears like I’m posing more questions than answers, but I try to stay open-minded about issues surrounding judgement.   Bearing that in mind how does such situation shape our outlook on life or how does our stand on these issues affect our feelings?  Personally, when I judge people according to the ‘thing they did’ I feel justified.  When I judge people according to the ‘thing someone like them did’ I question my integrity.  According to societal rules and expectations judging others from a victim’s standpoint might feel safer and justified than judging others based on generalisations or actions of others.  What do you think?  Judging a situation, instead of a person, and taking appropriate actions seems like the most reasonable thing to do.

Do not generalise people to pass judgement.  Be mindful and think before you speak – you can’t get words back.  Since people are hard-wired to judge others based on past experiences or what society says about them, try to listen to your internal dialogues or thoughts before passing judgement and if you must, make them into positive ones.

Forgiveness is the only sure way of moving on.

Remember judging someone does not define who they are, it defines who you are

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