Moving away from Judgement

Last week, in one of my book clubs, we were talking about compassion. One of the women in my group was saying how she’s working actively on trying to become more compassionate towards everyone. How’s she’s been working on this for a long time and still struggles with it occasionally but she is not giving up.

As always, it made me think a lot about my relationship with compassion. If you read here with any regularity, you know that compassion towards myself is something I struggle with consistently. But, in this case, I was thinking about compassion towards others. Towards my kids, my husband, friends, strangers. Was I doing a good job? How could I do better? I try to be open-minded and be kind to most people I encounter, but was that enough?

The thing is, anyone who judges herself, clearly judges others too. But, yet, judgement requires knowledge. For me, judging someone comes down to two things:

1. Thinking you know them well enough to know exactly why they’re behaving the way they do
2. Thinking you know what the “right” way to behave is

But the fact is, you don’t know either. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that we don’t know those around us nearly as well as we think we do. We have no idea what they’re going through. Even the people we’re close to don’t always share their situation. As we grow older and have lives intertwined with husbands, significant others, children, etc. there is more and more that’s private to a certain relationship. Your friend might share her personal issues with you but she might not be able to share issues she’s facing with her kids or husband. So, at any moment in time, you know a lot less about someone else’s situation than you think you do. Which means you have no idea why they are making the choices they make or behaving the way they do.

The second one is more obvious to me. You clearly don’t know what the right thing to do is. You barely know what might be right for you. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the right thing in a marriage, to ensure both parties are getting what they need. And this is the person who’s theoretically closest to you and shares your days and nights. When it comes to friendships, it’s really hard to tell what the right thing for that person, for that situation might be. And who are you to know exactly what’s right in every situation? Or for every person in that situation?

Nobody, that’s who.

I was reminded again last week that there’s so much I don’t know about the people in my life. So many assumptions I make. So much filling in the “blanks.” And the way I fill in the blanks is often wrong. The assumptions I make are incorrect. Even with my husband, whom I’ve been with for almost twenty years, I have a hard time guessing exactly what he’s thinking and why he’s behaving a certain way. He is another human being. He has his own fears, worries, shortcomings, etc. Not to mention his own set of assumptions for situations and people in his own life. When you think about it more and more, you can clearly see how complicated this is. How little we really know. How many assumptions we make about others.

After the reminder last week, I am trying to keep this at the front of my mind. When I look at others (even my kids) I remind myself that I don’t know the full story. I don’t know what he’s reacting to. I don’t know what else she might be suffering from. I don’t know about the worries and fears he’s carrying with him.

And I will stop thinking that I know. Instead, I will be open. So I can listen. So he can share if he wants to. And if she doesn’t, I can just be there. To lean on, to forget, to hold his hand. I know it’s hard but I am hoping that if I raise my awareness and practice as often as I can, this will allow me to move from judgement to compassion.

And, maybe, just maybe, I can slowly find some compassion for myself, too.

5 comments to Moving away from Judgement

  • So true and well written! It reminds me the point “A river runs thought it” (the book) made, only you made the point clearly with much less space.

  • Therese H

    How funny that we think we know things when, as you point out, we really don’t. You have made what is confusing pretty clear. Thanks! I love your insight and honesty.

  • Mel

    Thanks for these well thought out words, that are so true. I am very bad at jumping to conclusions and know I shouldn’t. A good reminder to me to be more thoughtful and find the compassion within me.

  • This is something that I think most people struggle with – we often think that we know someone well enough to give advice. Yet, we don’t take our own advice and often give ourselves the wrong advice and we should know ourselves fairly well. Compassion for others is hard work but well worth the effort.

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