First, let me start with a confession. I wrote this article about how to stop being judgmental because I have this tendency in my own life. Does this ring a bell with you? Judgmentalism is a common human trait that sometimes grows as we get older. And no, I am not one of those who yell at the kids to “Get off my yard” out my front window. First of all, because we are not located where kids are likely to play in our front yard, and second, because I would probably go out and join them.
Dictionary.com defines judgmentalism as: “denoting an attitude in which judgments about other people’s conduct are made.” When you and I practice judgmentalism we are usually being critical and finding fault with an individual, a group of people, a circumstance or someone else’s position (e.g. religious or political).
The COVID-19 challenge we are all dealing with at this time seems to be bringing out the judgmental tendencies of otherwise even-keeled people. For example, one segment thinks that people who go outside without a mask are reckless and dangerous, while another feels that people who are afraid to venture outside are snowflakes who want to wreck the economy. This reminds me of the George Carlin quote: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?”
There are times when judging is a good thing. For example, picking the best candidate for a job opening or choosing where to vacation or who to be friends with. After all, to eliminate some things from your life and accept others, you need to compare one to the other and make choices. While these types of judgment are beneficial, I am talking about the type of judging that is harmful, both to the people you are being critical of, and also to yourself.
Here are some suggestions to help you stop being judgmental:
- Realize that your judgement are only an opinion. We get into lots of trouble when we start confusing our opinions with facts. Much as we (I) would like to believe that our opinions are facts or are entirely based on the facts – there is a difference.
- Understand the source of your judgments. Did you come by your judgments after carefully considering the pros and cons, or like most of us, did some of them come from people you were exposed to along the way (especially parents, teachers, clergy, peers)?
- Accept that in the case of those you are judging, if you were brought up in their circumstances, you would probably feel and act like they do. We all look at the world through our own lens, which is made up of our specific upbringing and experiences.
- Release everyone in your past that has harmed you. Not always, but most often, people who do something you don’t like are not trying to harm you, or make you angry. They are just living life according to their own conditioning and trying to find their own modicum of happiness.
- Practice the golden rule – Yep, that golden rule! Remember that what you put out, comes back to you. Another way to put this is that when given a choice of whether to condemn others or to cut them some slack, choose the latter option.
- Assume goodwill. I was once told by a prominent relationship counselor that people who make assumptions about the motivations of their spouse/partner, they are wrong as much as 90 percent of the time. This leads to unnecessary anger and frustration.
There is song titled Reach Out in the Darkness, that has lyrics related to the last point.
I knew a man that I did not care for
And then one day this man gave me a call
We sat and talked about things on our mind
And now this man he is a friend of mine.
When you have negative thoughts about someone, you may feel you are entirely justified. Yet, if you truly got to know that individual, your perception may change. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt before you get to know them?
A Medium.com article by Kelli María Korducki has a great perspective on how important it is to let go of judgment about those things you can’t control (like the actions of others):
In The Pocket Stoic, the author and philosophy professor, John Sellars, writes about the Greek Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, and his fascination with judgment — namely, the direct relationship between judgment and human happiness. “The Handbook of Epictetus opens with a fairly blunt account of what things he thinks are and are not ‘up to us,’” writes Sellars. “The things that we can control — the things in our power — include our judgments, impulses, and desires.” The Stoics believed that much of human unhappiness stems from the mistaken belief that we can control things that, in fact, we can’t.
I realize that many of the people reading this have no issue with judgmentalism – like my husband who has no trace of this negative attribute. But if you are one of us who can benefit from a different perspective, stop being judgmental and boost your happiness.
Here are more great articles that will help with your motivation and inspiration.