I’ve written a few posts on judgment lately, and it continues to be a subject at the forefront of my cerebrum. And on the subject of judgment I had a bit of an a-ha moment this morning, so I thought I would take the time to share.
I am a Christian-raised, practicing non-Christian, who loves the Bible. What I love about the Bible are the stories it tells, which in my own personal view are but beautiful metaphors on how we can each live better and more loving lives. One such metaphor is this one, which always stuck to the inside of my mind since I was a wee one attending Catholic school: “…First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Ouch. Talk about telling it straight. But how accurate is this statement? How totally on point? Most often we who dish have no business doing so in the first place.
My a-ha moment came because I was reading a blog post in which the author was quite tired of having to defend his religious faith. This struck me as interesting because of my own personal experiences, where I’ve grown tired of having to defend my faith outside of religion. And it struck me that with everything that is going on in the world today, everyone, everywhere is tired.
The way I see it, judgment acts as a swinging pendulum. On one side someone judges, on the other side the person judged incites reverse judgment as a defense. The cycle is a self-perpetuating-yet-mutually-destructive machine.
Let’s look at an example:
My son loves peanut butter, obsessively. My daughter despises peanut butter and won’t touch it with a ten foot spoon. Each breakfast my daughter judges my son’s peanut butter toast and refuses to sit near him so as not even to smell the peanut butter. This makes my son feel alienated, hurts his feelings, and makes him defensive of his right to consume peanut butter. In defense, my son lashes out at my daughter. Sometimes his hurt resembles reverse judgment of whatever toast topping my daughter happens to be enjoying. Sometimes it comes out in physical pushing or hitting (he’s three, by the way). Sometimes it resembles bursts of whines and tears. All are ways in which my son expresses his hurt, yet one of these methods is a reverse-judgment, one is violent, and only one is a clear expression of hurt. And yet, all clearly represent my son’s desire to simply eat his peanut butter toast in peace.
So, like with me and religion, in my desire to believe what I want to believe, I have at times in my life lashed out at organized religion, at times felt anger, at times felt alone and vastly misunderstood. The truth is that I don’t need to be understood, I don’t need anyone in my life to believe the same as I do, I don’t even need to discuss my faith with my loved ones, but I do need to feel like I’m allowed to be myself– totally, naturally completely myself.
Which is all anyone ever wants, the right to be freely themselves.
But it is in defense of my desire to be free to be myself that I lash out, often in unjust and unfair ways.
This, however, leads to the question, where do you draw the line? At an amusement park this week, two men seen hugging were told not to hug. The Black Lives Matter movement has been followed by voices shouting that all lives matter. In the US, much of the population continues to fight for their right to bear arms. In all situations, judgment has been at play, but cannot both sides lay claim to being judged? Cannot both sides express their desire to freely act on their beliefs?
Back in the day, I worked one-on-one with kids in a counselling role. As a part of my training I learned that under the word of the law, I was not allowed to disclose anything that was spoken about within the walls of the therapy room. Unless. Unless the child claimed that they intended on doing harm to themselves. Unless the child claimed that they intended on doing harm to another. Unless the child disclosed that harm was being done to them. Physical or emotional harm, this was the deciding factor.
Two men hugging does not do harm. The one who judged them did.
Black Lives Matter does not do harm. Those who judge the movement do.
Guns and gun rights do cause harm. Pointe finale.
With my son’s adoration of peanut butter I ask my daughter frequently to consider these questions: Does he have the right to enjoy his peanut butter? Is he hurting you by eating peanut butter (in our allergy-free home)? When the answer undoubtedly points to him causing no harm by enjoying the food he most naturally prefers to enjoy, the answer is simply to leave him be.
Leave it be.
Live and let live.
Mind your own business.
Keep calm and carry on.
Look to the log in your own eye.
All ways of saying, let your judgments lie, allow your brothers and sisters the freedom to be the people they naturally are.
But the onus also rests on us to not partake in the swinging of the pendulum, to not join in by reverse-judging out of self-defense, to not feed the monster. In A Course in Miracles it states, “Judgment, like any other defense, can be used to attack or protect, to hurt or to heal.” Meaning, there’s a way use judgment to your benefit, to use your best judgment to help you make the best decisions. We can all decide what to listen to and what to ignore, who to spend time with and who to leave alone, what fights to take on and what are not worth expending our energy on. Acting out in defense is a choice. Sometimes that choice is a worthy one, but sometimes, sometimes, we are only acting out because our feelings are hurt, and because all we really want is the freedom to be ourselves.