By: James Kyle
Today I want to consider something that is very wrong indeed ... and that is, our unquestioned everyday belief systems that frame our experience of life … in terms of right and wrong. In fact my suggestion to you is that your life would be substantially and immediately improved if you banish the words right and wrong from your vocabulary, and replace them instead with effective and ineffective. So I can now rephrase my proposition in this form: it is not effective to see life through a filter of right and wrong. Why? Because right and wrong implies judgment, and when we enter into judgment in any form we are disempowering ourselves.
In the context of our shared objective of increasing personal power, what I want to share with you today is this: judgment is psychologically damaging to the person who is judging - on many different levels.
Let us start with a very simple and everyday experience. You are driving along cheerfully in your car and all at once another car cuts you up. What is the usual scenario here? Thoughts of how dare he comes to the fore, quickly followed by thoughts of revenge and retribution. Yes, your cheerfulness quickly dissolves into upset and anger. Why? Because you move into judgment. He did something wrong. Meanwhile this other driver is speeding away contentedly looking forward to a pleasant evening out on the town. My question to you is - who is the judgment harming? Hint: who is the one with the higher blood pressure? (Oh and in this case I think I can be excused for the use of the term "he").
Or again, you phone up your bank to find out about some unexpected charges on your account statement. After 5 menu selections and ten minutes of insipid music you get through to the customer service person who assures you that the charges are valid. You disagree. She is insistent. You raise your voice slightly to make your point. So does she. Quickly this escalates. One minute later the discussion is a full blown argument. You can now say goodbye to any chance of your point of view getting a dispassionate hearing. You might as well pay those charges my friend. Why? Because you slipped into judgment without even realizing it.
A final example; think of people you were once friendly with and now you have fallen out. I suggest one of two things happened here. You moved into judgment about them or, they moved into judgment about you. Here is a simple rule for you: judgment always creates distance between people. And when you distance yourself from people in your life you are the one that loses out. As someone once said - judgment is like picking up a burning coal to throw at somebody else.
But how can we move out of judgment? One key I believe is to realize that every choice has a price and a prize. You go to work: you get paid, but you commit to being in an office 8 hours a day. You eat chocolate: it tastes good, but you put on weight. You go to the gym: you get fitter, but you miss out on seeing “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” Every choice that you make has a price and a prize. And every choice that someone else makes has a price and a prize. Usually of course it is prices and prizes. And here is the point: you really do not know what another person’s prices and prizes are for any given action - unless you ask. Snap judgments make no sense whatsoever when you begin to appreciate this. So, effective behavior is to remain neutral and get more information about the causes of the person’s behavior - find out the prices and prizes that led to their response. Next you “evaluate” this information. And evaluation is different from judgment in that you stay in this neutral mode - you choose to not allow emotions to distort your view of the situation. At this point you may indeed decide that the other person’s behavior is unacceptable. You can then consciously choose to deal with this - perhaps by simply presenting your own point of view, perhaps in some cases by disengaging from this person. And if the latter, I think you can appreciate that this would have a completely different energy from ending a relationship in anger and judgment. And the good news is that so very often the reverse happens - when you more fully understand someone else, you, in fact, begin to feel closer to them. The truth is your way of interacting with life changes dramatically as you move out of judgment and instead adopt an ongoing position of acceptance and compassion.
What about moral judgments? What about murderers and other deviants? Surely I can judge them? Sure, if you want to pay the price of that judgment. A better choice is to ensure that they pay the price for their actions by putting them in prison thus guaranteeing that society is protected from their unacceptable behavior. Once more, no additional judgment is necessary or desirable. The essence of the problem is this. If through judgment you reject someone else, you reject part of who you are, you reject part of your own shadow side, and anything less than full acceptance of all of who you are is psychologically damaging to yourself.
On this note I leave with you some homework if you choose to accept. Given the fact that judgment of others can be so incredibly damaging, what do you think is the consequence of self-judgment? … This is why I think it is crucially important to acknowledge that there are truly no such things as mistakes - only opportunities for learning. At every moment realize - in that moment, you are being the best you possible.