“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” ― Henry Ward Beecher
Did you know that judgement impairs our ability to identify what is really taking place in a situation? We may not have the full details and are likely to judge something based on limited information. We tend to distance ourselves through our judgements and become disillusioned with what we find. For example, it is easier to judge another person than to know them on a deeper level. This is because it requires a commitment to invest ourselves and we might be disappointed if the other person does not reciprocate. Therefore, judgement keeps us safe because we transfer our feelings of fear, shame and guilt onto others to make ourselves feel better. This comes at a cost of alienating ourselves instead of building stronger connections.
The way out of judgement is through the power of gratitude, which helps us see things through a different lens. Gratitude opens the door to our hearts and helps us consider things from a different perspective. It softens us in places where we were rigid. A heart filled with gratitude is unlike a heart filled with judgement, fear and anger. In fact, the heart does not harbour these emotions as much as the mind does through its ego attachment. Consequently, judgement and gratitude are opposing forces. One is the realm of the ego and the other is expressed through authentic goodness and compassion. Have you experienced something similar in your own life? Perhaps you judged another person wrongly and realised later there was more to the person than meets the eye? It is common to react this way and psychologist say it is attributed to an evolutionary role within our brains that screens for negativity.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
But how can we overcome our judgement to perceive things more clearly? Surely, judgement hinders our experience of life? The key to recognising our judgement lies in being mindful of our thoughts. I often tell coaching clients when they notice themselves judging, to stop and ask a simple question: “What am I not seeing in this situation?” This helps us notice where we are blinded by our bias and unable to see the truth. It is my experience that judgement occurs mainly in our interaction with people. We are unaware of other people’s motives and agendas because we bring our own distorted thinking to the process. Most times, we prefer to be right than wrong, even if it means upholding erroneous thoughts.
This was evident with the disgraced seven time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong who convinced himself and others he did not cheat. He went to great lengths to dismiss his use of illegal performance-enhancing substances. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he said that his lies were so convincing they eventually become truth. This example shows the complexity of human beings where a lie can be believed with such conviction that it becomes our truth. But as you know, upholding a lie is harder than speaking the truth. In contrast, the power of gratitude allows us to shift our attention to the truth, even if it means our feelings will be hurt. Gratitude helps us become aware of opportunities, even if we have to look hard, there is always something to appreciate. Gratitude flips the switch from fear and judgement to compassion and understanding. It is the bridge whereupon friendships and tolerance is born.
To cross the bridge from judgement to gratitude requires openness and awareness. The openness to trust we don’t completely understand what is taking place. The awareness that we are judging something to appease ourselves or minimise another’s self-worth. Through an expanded awareness, we recognise our habituated thoughts patterns and are able to break the cycle. We move from the egoic need to judge something or someone and into our hearts where all possibilities exist. We learn to be more tolerant and grateful of others instead of believing in a fabricated lie. The more we understand something, the more tolerant we become of ourselves and others. Tolerance leads to forgiveness and empathy which are the seeds of soulful living.
With that in mind, I’d like you to consider a current situation in which you have judged something or someone unfairly. How could you see things differently and appreciate what is taking place behind the scenes? What action could you take to come from a place of gratitude and compassion instead of judgement and fear? Sometimes, the smallest action requires making eye contact with another person. Notice the difference in your body and how you feel when you move into your heart instead of your head? It is only when we let go of judgement that the power of gratitude opens the door to our heart and brings the awareness to see things exactly as they are.