Do you yearn to build a kinder, better world…but there’s a whole bunch of assholes getting in the way?! Haha…yes, that was a trick question, and if your response to it was “Hell yeah!”, then you just might be falling into the judgement trap.
And you certainly wouldn’t be alone… It’s really tough not to feel judgemental when you encounter people (in real life or online) who are acting disrespectfully or indifferently…especially around an issue that’s close to your heart.
Unfortunately, if you’re trying to make a positive difference in the world, judgement probably isn’t going to get you there. In fact, that energy of superiority and “othering” is likely to add to the shittiness you’re trying to heal.
For one thing, judgement fortifies close-mindedness and intolerance in your character. It also stops COLD the transformative act of bridge-building.
See, the moment a person feels judged, is the moment you lose your ability to influence them. An iron wall goes up and there’s no reaching them on any level.
Just to be clear…this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak out strongly and often about what’s important to you, it’s just about finding a way to do it with less judginess and more tenderness in your heart.
Being the mind-reader I am, I can hear you thinking… Oh sure, Kimberly…just how the hell do you propose I do THAT?
Well, my scrappy one, this is something I’ve had to work with a LOT in my various social justice adventures and I want to share with you three tools I use to dissolve judgement and that I’ve also seen work wonders for so many of my changemaker coachees…
1. Understand that hurt is mostly caused by those who are hurting.
I try to tell my self over and over again that people are doing the best they can from what they know and are capable of.
If you feel someone is behaving badly, take a moment to consider the pain, fears, or lack of access to knowledge or inability to learn that may be motivating their actions…
Maybe they over-consume because they feel such a deep emptiness inside. Or, maybe they can’t show compassion in certain areas because this was never modelled to them. Maybe they exert force because they grew up feeling completely powerless.
Recognizing the pain that drives damaging behaviour can instantly take someone out of the role of monster and turn them into someone in need of compassion.
Again, that doesn’t mean you can’t still oppose their actions, but you do it from a place of more space and equanimity…which ultimately contributes to the solution rather than the problem.
2. Recall those times you were this person.
When judgement starts rising, remember that at some point in your life, in some shape and form, you did something that was damaging and either tried to deny it or rationalize it.
For example, as much as I feel so sad thinking about the number of animals I ate before I became vegan, reconnecting to this reminds me of how hard it can be to wake up, deal with shame, and make a change. Touching back into that place when I feel judgement brewing helps me stay a little more humble and understanding.
3. Get truly curious about the individual.
Instead of seeing someone simply as an entity that’s doing something you disapprove of, try to keep in mind that they’re actually a complex, dynamic being with a whole universe within them that nobody may ever fully know.
Be curious about what might make them tick and search for some common ground. Regard even the most unlikely of people as a potential ally or, if nothing else, part of this same life energy you’re a part of.
Trust me…dissolving judgement is powerful stuff.
I’ve seen hundreds of times how when someone with an opposing approach senses an intention of true compassion or connection, their walls can go down and their minds and hearts open. This is where the magic of changemaking begins.
But even if someone can’t be reached, know that the work of dissolving your judgement doesn’t go to waste. It trains your heart to be generous and your mind spacious…all vital ingredients for a better world.
“He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”
– Edwin Markham
HANGIN’ WITH JOAQUIN
Last month I was lucky to get to help show “Joker” star Joaquin Phoenix around a stellar animal rights ad campaign at St. George subway station in Toronto.
This was extra special for me because “Earthlings” — a documentary he narrated — is what turned me into an animal activist 13 years ago