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Judgments—Criticism or Mirror?

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

Why is it we feel the need to see the fault in others and never look in the mirror to see if it is our own issue that rises to the top?

You could see the red flush of rage start to rise on the mother’s face. “I have never, ever experienced a more defiant, stubborn, selfish child,” she said through clenched teeth to her friend.

Washing the dinner dishes for the fifth time that week, the wife was nursing a resentment against her husbands “laziness” in the kitchen, while their son was in his room calling his parents “mean” and “unfair” for requiring that he complete his homework before going out to play.

There’s one thing they all agree on: It’s the other person’s fault.

But there’s another thing they’re all missing: Every judgment we pass on other people is a revelation about ourselves, an expression of our own needs and values.

For example, the mother may need to look at the rage she felt as a child, when defying her own parents resulted in punishment, something she would never do to her own son. “I will not be like my parents!” The husband may need to work on his assertiveness, asking for more shared responsibility in the kitchen. And the son may need to understand the consequences of the choices he made regarding his homework.

In each case, the judgment itself provided a clue for what needs to be looked at, acknowledged, or brought out.

“Can’t I just have an opinion, though?” we are tempted to ask.

Of course. But judgment is different from the kinds of opinions that form from assessment or objective appraisals. Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticism, comparisons, and diagnoses are all forms of judgment, all ways of saying that another person is “wrong.” Other types of judgments:

· Judgments based on beliefs and expectations. “You’re 11 now, and you should be able to remember to turn the lights off in your room.” [“You’re inconsiderate; you’re an airhead.”]

· Judgments based on fears. “She’s cold and distant lately; I think she’s getting ready to leave me.”

· Judgments based on generalizations. “Believe me, all men are basically lazy.”

· Judgments that make us feel better about ourselves. “How could you not know who the person is singing that song?” [“You’re stupid; I’m smart.”]

· Judgments that distract us from taking responsibility. “She gets all the parts she wants; she’s the director’s daughter.”

To enjoy the benefits of being nonjudgmental—more effective communication, reduced misunderstandings, enhanced relationships at home and work, and a sense of emotional freedom and safety can be created. Look at whether you are communicating your needs. Here are some suggestions to try.

· Be aware of where and when you are judging others. This is a necessary first step.

· Practice empathy with a soft heart. What’s it like to be the other person?

· Truly listen and keep an open mind. Learn to make objective evaluations about ideas, people, and situations.

· Be curious. Ask about the circumstances of someone else’s life. Most of our assumptions are not based on real situations but assumed beliefs.

· Accept differences. If we can accept each other’s choices and beliefs, then there is so much more freedom for all of us to be ourselves.

· Focus on your feelings and needs, as well as those of others. This will take you out of judgment and be more present to the needs of those around you and their specific situation.

Judgment separates us from the moment and clouds the opportunity to be present to someone else. Isn’t that what we desire? To be heard, supported, and cared for? Look in the mirror and determine your choices. You might find instead of Judgments, you “meant to judge” and found you could change the outcome by being present to the needs of others and have yours met as well.

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