“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” – Mother Teresa
I once had an interesting conversation with a friend about one of my favorite topics: life. At the time, I was convinced there was a predefined path for us humans, a destiny one could never change. Meanwhile, my friend had a very different view on her life: “I can create my future every single day,” she said. “If there’s some kind of destiny I dislike, I can surely change it.” I found that unacceptable. Who did she think she was? I didn’t speak to her for weeks.
I acted in the same way years later, during the presidential elections in my home country, Romania, when a close friend decided to vote for the candidate I disliked. I can recall how angry I was. I thought she was smart, so how could she?
This judgemental, aggressive way to relate to people was a toxic behavior I’m not proud of. However, I don’t get into the trap of the guilt, shame, and self-blame any longer. Today, I know that was the best I knew and the best I could, with the instruments of awareness I had at the time.
And here’s what I know to be true today:
I can always agree to disagree.
As described by Descartes, humans are “social animals,” and we all have a basic need to belong to a community. We tend to feel more at ease when surrounded by like-minded people. Whenever I am having a conversation with someone whose opinions differ from mine, I try not to take things personally. Today I know I can always agree to disagree.
People also have the right to change their mind. As we grow and evolve, mindsets and perspectives on life can change, as well. Take my example: years ago, the Old Me was blaming that dear friend for saying she could create her own path in life. Today’s Me thinks the same: I believe everything in life is a matter of personal choice, and we are the sum of our decisions. Interesting how a belief that once disturbed me a lot can feel so resonant today.
Whatever I might judge in another is a reflection of Self.
I came to understand that everyone is on their own journey, and my job is to focus on my own. Each time I am judgmental with people, I’m reacting to something that bothers me about myself. If I believe you are mean, it means I can also be mean; how could I see that in you, otherwise? Carl Jung called it “the mirroring effect”:
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
We can only judge what we don’t understand.
During the first year I spent living and working in China, I was outraged to see people spitting in public spaces. I saw this behavior in the middle of the day, right on the streets, and at work, in the ladies room. I found it extremely rude and disgusting. Later, my colleagues explained that this is how people clean their throats from extreme pollution. I didn’t have to like it but understanding the reason helped me become less judgmental.
If my sharing rings the bell with you, whenever you find yourself in a blaming or judging mode, act as an observer. Get curious and ask questions. Look at the situation from this perspective: “I don’t have to agree with this, but I know where this comes from. I understand.” See the difference and how much lighter you feel.
Normalcy is an illusion.
When we come to this world, we know nothing. We are all products of the societies and cultures that raised us (family, school, religious, or political systems). Since societies and cultures are different, it is expected to encounter a variety of individual values or systems of belief.
In reality, things are as they are. Not good or bad, normal or strange, ugly or beautiful, stupid or smart. “Normal” is relative to each individual because we all filter the world through our own lenses.
To me, knowing this was such a relief! I’ve finished trying to impose my views and convictions on others. I’ve also stopped judging silly little things that seemed odd to me – like how the Chinese eat tomatoes with sugar because, to them, the cherry tomato is not a vegetable, but a fruit.
I refuse to think we live in the world where fear, hate, anger, and separation are part of a new, modern Era. I think Mother Earth needs more of our loving energy to heal: more heart, understanding, less judging and more compassion, less taking and more giving, less competition and more collaboration and care.
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Originally published at sarafabiancoaching.com