self-awareness, therapy

A Question of Judgement

“It doesn’t matter where I go, what I’m doing. I feel like everyone is just staring at me, judging everything I do. Why should I have to go through that?”

I can’t speak on the staring part, but whoever said this has a good point. Everyone is judging. It’s just the way we do things; we’re in a constant state of seeing, evaluating, and making moral assumptions based on our experiences. We’re always judging, every moment.

How does that work? Isn’t there some sort of ideal of not judging others, of not being judgmental? If we’re constantly in a state of passing judgment on everything we see, is it even possible to not be judgmental? For that matter, how do therapists even work? Look at any therapist’s online profile. Odds are, you’ll see something about a “caring and compassionate” therapist who will provide you with a “safe and non-judging space” to do what you need to do. Are therapists not human? Have they put up their collective shingles based on an impossible dream of being truly unbiased?

I was speaking with a friend about this very topic. “How,” he asked, “are we expected to be honestly unbiased with people who are doing things that are diametrically opposed to our values? They know it, we know it. As tolerant as I try to act, I’m against what they’re doing. So how are we supposed to be accepting?”

Let’s think about our own experiences. Have you ever been in a situation where someone else didn’t like what you did? 

Of course you have. So have I. (More than a few times.)

Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes there may have been a better option for whatever it was you were dealing with, that would have had a better result, or been more in line with your values even if the result wasn’t great.

What about the other times, though? You know what you did (are doing/will continue to do), you know why you’re walking the path you’ve chosen. You have very good reasons, if you do say so yourself. You may not be thrilled with the endgame, but you feel you did the best you could with the options you had. And for some reason, there are those who disagree. They don’t understand, and feel you should have done something differently.

You know better, though.

And therein lies the difference. That’s why others will judge you, but there are many times when you won’t judge yourself. You know what you went through in order to get to the decisions you’ve made in life. You know all that went into choosing the path you walk, or being forced into it by life circumstances. They don’t.

You don’t know theirs, either. If you did, you might well end up in the same place as them.

Being non-judgmental doesn’t mean we don’t have values, or disagree with the actions of others. It means accepting that we don’t have all the information, understanding, or experience to see the totality of the other person.

If we don’t have all that, then who are we to judge?

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