Don’t judge and don’t bother about being judged!


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.

Why do we judge? Because judging is free. Nobody is stopping you. So you indulge in pronouncing judgments. It comes easy. It is exciting. It gives you an air of superiority. That superior feeling you may not be seeking 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. Let’s say, in a country like India, in a city like Chennai, where autorickshaw drivers are known to fleece people, you are seen haggling with an autorickshaw driver for about Rs.20/- (less than 50 cents). You are attired in business formals, are carrying a laptop bag and looking every inch a well-heeled white collar manager. Two people passing by, who are new to Chennai, watch you haggling. One of them tells the other that he thinks you are a miser who is finding it difficult to part with Rs.20/-! You hear that comment and feel hurt. Why? Because your fight with the autorickshaw driver is on a matter of principle and not a function of affordability. That you are a man of principle is not being considered by the opinion-makers. That you are a miser, which you believe you are not, is what they perceive. So, you hate being judged because it is never based on the complete reality though it may well be based on some sound perception! When you are judged, you feel like a worm. You feel like a criminal, standing helplessly in the dock, who’s being judged and indicted without the full story being heard!

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. Take Oscar Pistorius for example. Who would have thought this global icon would have ended up facing charges of murdering his girlfriend? In his statement he has said, “I am absolutely mortified by the events and the devastating loss of my beloved Reeva…I cannot bear to think of the suffering I have caused her and her family, knowing how much she was loved….” Pistorius has his own reasons, his own defense for shooting at Reeva (as he says, accidentally) and the court trying his case will focus more on the act than the person he is. In fact, that is the way law is drawn up in all parts of the world. Where the criminal act, with the related evidence, coming into weigh more on the final judgment than sentiment. 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 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 well being and the well being of the people in his or her circle of influence. For all the same or similar reasons, should you agree with them, don’t bother about being judged. Because if you are being judged, there can be two reasons. One, your actions must have led to the judgment. Second, the people judging your actions may be less evolved and may have ended up condemning you wholesomely. Either way, it doesn’t change who you are. So, live with that truth and make peace with yourself that way!

To judge __ others or yourself __ is as heinous a crime as the act being judged itself. It is wasteful, regrettable and, therefore, imminently 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 total bliss.

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