I saw this post on a friend's facebook wall and was reminded of my greatest challenge and greatest work. I read it and thought, "yes. This is right. I need to do this more. I think people need to do this more."
It was especially poignant because I've been feeling my inner critic, my critical mind as Pema Chodron calls it, sort of taking over the joint lately. I know it's because my own life is in such constant and furious transition; change is so good and can also be such a challenge. I get those feelings out, in part, by displacing frustration, anxiety and feeling a lack of control via my biggest vice: judging. Judging people, judging society, judging myself--harshly. I see this happening all over facebook and hear it in the words of others more clearly, perhaps because I'm increasingly more aware of my own habit of doing it.
When we judge ourselves and others, we lose connection to them. We lose compassion for self and the beautiful imperfection of each person. We lose sight of the truth that we are all miraculous works in progress, each trying to get through a day doing our best with the best we have.
I was born and bred to be a judge. My mom passed it down from her mom. Perhaps my great-grandmother was a judge, too. I didn't know her. It's probably a safe bet.
But I grew out of it for a short while when I was in the company of a wonderful community in my early twenties. There wasn't much time or need for judging because I was surrounded by love and fun and joy in my career and my relationships.
Then, I fell in with a crowd of some fierce judges. They used the guise of "social justice" as the validation but the tone and tenor of their thoughts, words and actions were undeniably clear: JUDGMENT. Hanging around that scene nurtured what was already a really bad habit of mine so it probably wasn't an accident that I "found" that community. I must have had more work to do on that part of myself.
For years, I justified my behavior of harshly judging and criticizing others' thoughts, words and actions because that's what everyone else was doing. We rationalized the behavior and enabled it in each other. The lessons I learned about difference were framed with the message of suffering as a victim. I was taught that differences meant someone lost and someone won. I learned that it was my job to suffer because others were suffering. I learned to take a back-seat and speak up for people instead of encouraging them to find and use their own voices.
All of this has merit, but it was a flawed philosophy. It's true that I learned a lot about identity and perspective-taking and privilege, but I came away from that community more damaged than healed and it's taken me years to see it and come back from it.
I keep quite a few of those folks on my newsfeed to remind me of how far I've come and how far I have yet to go.
Judging ourselves and others is a habit. It's pervasive and rooted in my own self-esteem and self-confidence. The saying goes, "we judge in others what we don't accept about ourselves." I'm judging myself right now for sharing this so openly and honestly. But what bothers me more about this social media thing than the false sense of connection with each other, is the false sense of identity people present. I'd rather be inspiring from a place of honesty than a false pretense.
So, I am integrating the best of that old philosophy I was taught into a new model. I am learning to see people like trees, as Ram Dass says. Seeing them for the ways they've been shaped and molded based on what they've endured---but not judging them for it, because the judging won't change anything. Loving does.
I am practicing this, especially when feeling most triggered, most frustrated and most disempowered in my life. I want to practice doing the best with what I have and what I've been given and inspire others to do the same, even though we are given and have different things.
I am learning to see myself like a tree, shaped by periods of brilliant light and perhaps a lack of nutrients at certain points but standing strong, despite.