Earl Nightingale said, “When you judge others you do not define them, you define yourself.”
To judge is to be human. Animals do not judge other animals. Humans are the only species that have that learnt ability to look at another human and pass judgement on them. This is not something that is part of our makeup when we are born. Babies do not come out of the womb assessing and judging whether they like the family they have been born into. It is a skill they learn, mainly, to protect themselves.
We invest a lot of power in those that judge. Whether we are a contestant on a talent show where we care greatly what the panel and the audience think about us or whether we care too much about what others think of us. If we are in court facing charges we give ourselves up to the power of the judge.
When we judge others, therefore, we are investing in ourselves a sense of power be that deserved or not. If I choose to judge you for the way you behave or the way you dress I am investing in myself that power to judge you. I am self-promoted to the position of judge.
It interests me why I need to do this
If you have ever had reason to attend a courtroom you will notice that the judge occupies a special place. They are the centre of the room and, therefore, the centre of attention. Crucially, their position in the room is raised up, thus instantly increasing their authority.
When we seek to judge and criticise others we are doing the same to ourselves. We are raising ourselves up. Elevating our position in our own eyes.
It interests me why we need to do this.
What I notice about my own behaviour is that the less great I feel about myself the more judgemental I become. The more challenged I feel the more I wish to spit out my condemnatory criticism about everyone else. If i am feeling overweight it is amazing how many fat people I can spot in the street and internally sneer at.
If my inner critic is picking me up for wasting time or for having lazy moment my reaction to my teenage daughter lounging around playing on her phone is noticeable. It may be justified, it may not be. I won’t really know unless I am aware of what is going on for me.
This is one level of my, or our, judgemental nature.
The next level is work brought to us by CG Jung which he described as our Shadow. These the parts of us that we hide, deny and repress. In basic terms, if I have been criticised and judged for being lazy in my formative years I am likely to hide, deny or repress my lazy side no matter how healthy it can be at times. When I see others lazing around my jealous inner voice screams “why are you allowed to behave like that when I wont allow myself to.” Being unable to deal with the internal tussle instead, it erupts out of us as our judgements and criticisms.
Debbie Ford who spent her life’s work helping people understand shadow work said in her book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers “Know thy shadow, know thyself.”
What I am clear about is that when I am judging others I am in complete opposite of a life skill that is essential for communication and collaboration…empathy. Empathy is to put yourself in the place of another and to try (it won’t always work but at least try) to understand their perspective. If you can truly understand why someone behaves the way they do, it is impossible to be judgemental and critical. Equally, if I am being judgemental and critical I will find it impossible, in that moment, to empathise.
There are a many problems in this world that are caused by our inability to empathise.
In summary, when I am judging others, if I choose to pause and reflect it gives me more information about how I am feeling that it does about their behaviour.
I think Earl NIghtingale said it better