December 31, 2020

The Real Reason we Judge Other People (& What it Says about Us).

When we judge, does it reflect others or us?

Is there a judgment about judging?

We all judge. We are predisposed to this natural tendency; it is part of human nature.

But why do we judge?

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” ~ Carl Jung

This quote sums it up all. Judging is easy and doesn’t require much thinking or reasoning. Our brains are wired to make automatic judgments about others’ behaviors so that we can move through the world without spending much time or energy in understanding everything we see.

Understanding is harder as it requires deep thinking, patience, compassion, and an open mind.

Human behavior specialist Dr. John Demartini refers to this phenomenon as “self-righteous” and “self-wrongeous.”

Judging is simply our attempt to create a hierarchy of better than and less than, superior to and inferior to, and to define worth to everyone and everything that we meet. We have the innate urge to be right, to be better, to be superior—always. Our binary view of the world around us necessitates us to be either right or wrong, so we tend to judge.

Here are two theories in psychology that explain the phenomenon of judging:

Attribution Theory

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Humans are motivated to assign causes to their actions and behaviors. In social psychology, attribution is the process by which individuals explain the causes of behavior and events.

Attributions are thoughts we have about others that help us make sense of why people do the things they do.

As exists attribution theory, there exists attribution biases, too, like fundamental attribution error. More often, our focus is on the behavior, ignoring the situation or the context or the circumstances which lead to that behavior.

Projection (Seeing Our Darkness in Others)

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness in other people.” ~ Carl Jung

As per Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, “Although our conscious minds are avoiding our own flaws, they still want to deal with them on a deeper level, so we magnify those flaws in others.”

We can only see in others what we have inside ourselves. First, we reject, then we project.

Jung stated our shadow as the unknown, unconscious, dark side of our personality. According to Jung, the shadow—being instinctive and irrational—is prone to psychological projection in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else.

American-British psychologist Raymond Cattell, known for his psychometric research, identified 16 factors or dimensions of personality that we all possess. All of our personalities are actually made up of the same traits; we differ only in the degree to which each trait is expressed. According to Cattell, people simply express these traits in different ways, at different times, and in different areas of their lives. Some may be dominant, and some may be dormant.

When we judge someone for something, we are actually judging ourselves as the very same thing; we just haven’t fully owned or accepted that trait yet within us.

When we judge, does it reflect others or ourselves?

“When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.” ~ Earl Nightingale

The world around us is our mirror, and judging someone does not define who they are—it defines who we are. More often than not, the things we detest and judge in others are a reflection of the things we cannot accept about ourselves.

The yardstick we use for ourselves is the yardstick we use for the world. The way you measure yourself is how you measure others, and how you assume others measure you.

“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.” ~ Hermann Hesse

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves, a self-awareness. What we see in others is quite often what we see in ourselves, and what irritates us in others may be what we don’t like in ourselves.

Judging is relative, our constant comparison or validation of everything that we perceive with what we believe. Our beliefs may have been a function of own personality traits, our conditioning (at multiple levels like societal, cultural, or religious), and our life experiences. So, judging is never absolute to others from their frame of reference.

But, are people or their situations that we judge part of this equation? Certainly not. So how can we measure or judge something with a yardstick that cannot completely handle what it measures? It cannot be foolproof.

Judging shuts us down and prevents us from understanding the full situation or a new truth that is not known yet.

“Through judging, we separate. Through understanding, we grow” ~ Doe Zantamata

While judging, one gets stuck in a loop; one can evolve by consciously trying to escape that loop. Here are a few ways to do that:

Be Open. Before we judge, let us seek to understand with an open mind.

Be Curious. We can remain in curiosity, knowing that there is something about the situation that we may not fully understand.

Be Empathetic. Let us be empathetic and give the benefit of the doubt to others for their situation or the circumstances that may not be in our full awareness.

Be Self-Aware. Practice being self-aware through self-forgiveness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. The more we understand ourselves, the more we can understand others; knowing our tendencies will help us assess fairly, patiently, compassionately.

It’s unwise to say, “Stop judging others,” as all our attempts against our innate human nature may go in vain, as it’s not as straight as it appears. Instead, we can learn to become more self-aware when we judge, and through that awareness, move on to adopt more interesting thought patterns.

We can also be more appreciative and compassionate of the world around us for what it is, rather than trying to fit it into our optics.

“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” ~ Ian MacLaren 



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