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“When you judge another, you do not define them. You define yourself.” ~ Wayne Dyer
Let’s be honest, we spend half of our life judging people: What they look like, how they dress, what they do, who they date, how they handled themselves in that last meeting, where they live, how they spend their money…
The list goes on and on and on. I bet if you give yourself less than two minutes, you can think of the last person you judged.
Now ask yourself…are you really being fair?
Dig a little deeper. What is it about them or what they’ve done that is triggering you? Because the truth is, everything we judge in others is something within ourselves we don’t want to face.
I grew up in an environment similar to most people. Everybody talked sh*t about everybody else. Everybody had an opinion about what this person was doing and what that person was doing. What this person had said, and how this person had responded.
I wish I could tell you that I never took part in any of this so I can stay perched on my mighty high horse. But that would be a lie.
Much of what we think about people is conditioned from our childhoods, so it’s only natural that we form opinions about people based on what we know and our own upbringings.
But who are we to judge? Have we walked the path of every person we encounter? Do we really know what they are feeling, what is beneath the surface of what they show us, what factors have gone into their decision making process before they decide to act?
Of course not. We can never know what another person has endured, until we have walked in their shoes.
I am guilty of judging others a much as the next person. I don’t think I really stopped or, at best, slowed down and began to catch myself until recently. I think you need to f*ck up in some royally horrific ways in your life before you can really develop compassion for others.
I’ve royally f*cked up. Never intentionally, but nonetheless, I’m as marred as the next person.
And when I felt people judging me… Oh, you better believe it hurt.
I recall one particularly searing moment when I had just discovered some horrid truth about my marriage and I fell apart into a tiny million pieces. I had to go to work, had to continue to function as if my world were not crashing down around me. Nobody will ever know how gut wrenchingly difficult that time in my life was.
There were people close to me who I perceived were judging me. Where was I? Why wasn’t I more present? Why wasn’t I pulling my weight at the office? Why was I taking off for long stretches of time, not to be found when I should have been working?
Do not mock a pain that you haven’t endured.
Yes, I was not present. Yes, I was not the rock star I always had been at my job during that time. Yes, I wish I could have repressed every horrible, turbulent emotion that I was feeling at the time and “bucked up” like a true Cowgirl.
But I didn’t. And I felt other’s judgement of me. And it hurt. It really, really hurt.
Here is what I learned from that experience: as we go through life, we may never understand why a person is acting the way they are, or making decisions that seem crazy to us.
But it’s so much sweeter to simply have compassion for that person, in that moment, no matter how much we disagree with what they are doing and be able to say, “Maybe they’re doing the best they can. I’m not going to judge.”
I am starting to realize that for every person I have ever judged in my life for something they have done, the universe has boomeranged that experience right back to me like a line drive. “Oh sweetie, looks like you need to walk a mile in that person’s shoes so we can show you that you may not have handled yourself any better. Y’all have fun, now,ya hear?”
It was never fun. And yes, I learned that I have no right to judge others when I found that I myself didn’t always handle things the way the “fantasy me” believed I would.
The God’s honest truth is, I don’t know how I would handle myself in many situations I have never been in.
I don’t know what people are feeling inside when they make decisions that I myself can’t understand.
I don’t know every person’s motivations or what drives them.
What I do know now is to just stay in my own lane. I try to stand up for others when I’m in a room full of people or with a friend or colleague who is going off on another person. I have a good friend who likes to say, “Well, whatever works for them. Who am I to judge?”
Yes…who are we to judge?
I think we are all just human, doing the best we can with what we know. We have opinions and we are definitely entitled to them.
Perhaps I’m just suggesting that we all work a little harder at staying in our own lane and remembering how we felt the last time somebody judged us.
It’s a wonderful incentive to stop.
“Don’t look down on others unless you’re helping them up.” ~ Jesse Jackson
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Travis May
Photos: Guian Bolisay/Flickr