Avoid judging people and events around you. Take them as they come. For what they are. You simply be.
Last week a student called me from Changanacherry in Kerala. He wanted me to preside over an event at his college. The role involved judging several contestants in a series of competitions. I politely declined the invitation. Somehow, I just can’t accept that anyone can or must judge anyone else.
One of the first lessons we are taught in school is “Don’t judge a book by its cover”! But that’s precisely what we do. We do it all the time. We are always judging someone or something __ events, governments, government policies, sporting teams, movie stars, politicians, children, parents, siblings, companions and partners. For instance, all of India is presently polarized over judging our athletes’ performance at Rio.
Why do we judge? Because judging is free. Nobody is stopping you. So you indulge in pronouncing judgments. It comes easily. It is exciting. It gives you an air of superiority. You may not be seeking or realizing that superior feeling consciously at all. But your subconscious loves it. You feel like an exalted member of the jury, looked up to by your own private circle of courtiers, while pronouncing someone guilty.
And why do we loathe being judged? Because you almost always are being judged for a single act and not for the real person that you are. The simplest way to avoid judging is to put yourself in the shoes of the person being judged and ask if you would have liked to be talked about that way! This is not easy to do. But it is simple. Over time, employing empathy and compassion, you can kill your urge to judge __ yourself and other people!
No one is perfect. No one is complete. No one is a saint. And no one is a born villain. Left to themselves, even the people who commit heinous crimes, who are tried, judged and punished by law, may not have ever wanted to end up that way. Given a choice, they would not have wanted to commit those acts at all or they may well want to undo those acts. Even in such cases, the judgment rarely indicts the person. It merely punishes the act, though the person who committed the act is pronounced guilty of it!
Perhaps there’s a lesson from the legal system here for all of us who indulge in recklessly and wholesomely judging people. Perhaps, it’s also a good idea to fundamentally evaluate whether judging people, including ourselves, is worth it at all? A lifetime is a much bigger, vaster, varied experience. A single act may well mar and scar a person’s reputation __ as we found in the case of Shiney Ahuja or Tiger Woods or Bill Clinton __ but cannot and must not incinerate a lifetime of work. So much time and emotion is wasted in judging. So much so, that sometimes, we end up judging ourselves and plunge into either depression or float in a fake sense of exaggerated self-importance.
This does not mean that we should not step in when we see someone headed in a wrong direction. We sure must. A teacher must judge the performance __ both academically and morally __ of her ward and prevent and prohibit factors that inhibit good performance. Don’t judge does not mean don’t correct. It means don’t condemn. It means don’t dump. It means focus on the act and still respect, love and appreciate the person for who she is. Place the act not in the backdrop of your morality, your virtuousness or your principles alone, but in the context of that person’s circumstances (when the act was committed) and the well-being of the people in his or her circle of influence.
To judge __ others or yourself __ is wasteful, regrettable and avoidable. Instead, a better position to take is to be a witness. A silent observer. No opinions. Just quiet learning. Take what you want to take from that person’s action or experience and discard the rest. Most important, when you are a mere observer, there is no anguish, no pain, no suffering, no victim, no villain…there’s just you, in a state of total inner peace!