“Don’t judge!” is a popular phrase, and one I heard a lot this past week.
The most recent incident concerned when a friend of mine shared on a social media site what she saw one morning outside a business complex: a woman stepped into an insurance agent’s office and left her newborn child alone in a car with the engine running. Apparently, the child was left alone for a period of time.
When my friend (who happens to be a parent herself to young children) ventured to say that this was a poor decision on that mother’s part, she was met with some criticism. One comment was, “I don’t think it’s fair to judge her. . just reminding people to be thoughtful and respectful.” Another took her to task for “criticizing.”
As I read these comments all I could think was, “Really?” When did “judging” someone become such a terrible thing?
Speaking as someone who has been in the mind/body community for over a decade, “Don’t judge!” has become a bit of a mantra and one that most people repeat without questioning. I joke that all is forgivable in this community—except for being guilty of judging.
However, there is a grain of truth there.
It seems whenever a yogi is caught behaving badly, whether it’s a well-known instructor or some local guy (usually, it’s almost always a guy) who is embroiled in a sex scandal, the first thing we hear is, “Don’t judge them.”
Granted, as someone who grew up with a very critical parent who was constantly judging me and everyone else around them, I know more than I wish I did about the downside of constant criticism. I don’t enjoy being judged anymore than the next person, and I loathe hypocrisy.
There are times when judging someone is appropriate and in some cases, it can even be helpful. Namely, I am talking about situations where some is hurting someone (including themselves) or has harmed someone—and still fails to see the errors of their ways.
Case in point: Years ago, when I was in my 20s and thought I knew it all, I was in a relationship with someone who was clearly not very good for me. We dated on and off for years and had a pretty set pattern of breaking up only to get back together again. Finally, my best friend who had stood by me more times than she probably should have, told me point-blank that this relationship was bad and was only hurting me.
Yes, she went there. She was judging me, my relationship…and she was absolutely right. One thing she did not do was abandon me, stop loving me, or say, “I told you so!” when I finally came around to accepting this truth.
The truth is, as human beings, we do judge. We do it all the time. In fact, the ability to judge probably has something to do with the fact that we’ve lasted as long as we have as a species. We live in a society with rules, laws and ethics.
When we violate those things, there is an expectation of consequences.
Still, while most of us can wrap our heads around that, the stigma of being told “You’re being judgmental!” is such that many people are afraid to say anything—even in situations like that my friend witnessed—for fear of being labelled “one of those people who judge”.
Perhaps it is time to take that stigma away. As I cited in the example of my best friend, it is possible to love, support and judge all at the same time. While most of us do not like to hear personal criticism, it is a lot easier to hear when it is presented with the above-mentioned things present.
Sometimes, we need to hear the truth even when it isn’t pretty or to our liking.
In any case, the next time we get the urge to call someone out for judging or if we happen to be accused of judging others, we owe it to ourselves to pause and see what its purpose is. If the goal is to legitimately help or to call out something that is harmful, then “judging” may well be a badge of honor instead of a stigma.
In my case, I am still grateful for the times that someone cared enough about me to judge me when I was harming myself and/or others and was unable to see the harm. To those I say with complete sincerity: Thank you for judging me. It’s very possible that you not only helped me, but many others around me as well.
I may not have always seen it at the time, but it was a gift that kept on giving.
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