Less judgment, more compassion

One of the things I'm thinking about this week in particular, but all the time in working with my clients and even trying to improve myself is judgment. In my experience, it seems the when we judge ourselves or others as "bad" or "good", we invariably run into trouble.

This week, as our country yet again mourns the deaths of still more Americans in the attack upon the LGBTQA community, we see that judgment is coming out everywhere. The killer perhaps judging these people as "bad" for reasons only known to himself, the possible connection to ISIS that apparently judges Americans in general as "bad", the Americans that feel being a part of the LGBTQA community is "bad"... everyone is judging everyone else.

The day after the shooting in Orlando, I ran across a video of Amaryllis Fox, a former undercover CIA officer. In this video, she states "If I learned one lesson from my time with the CIA, it is this: Everybody believes they are the good guy." This is a powerful statement and one that I had not really considered before but it sure does fit with my issue of judgment. This is one reason why judging others is inappropriate. We are not able to be objective. We come into these kinds of discussions or arguments with our particular values or experiences which automatically cloud our ability to judge fairly. We all think we're the good guy. We're right--so everyone that does not agree with us must, logically, be wrong.

I know, you're probably thinking, "but people should be judged--that's why we have judges!" That's fair, but to become a judge, one needs to go through law school, pass the bar, and usually practice for some time as a lawyer before they can become a judge through an election or appointment. These are highly intelligent, dedicated individuals, that have many years of experience interpreting the law and determining if a person is within his legal rights to do what he has done or not. They're not really judging the person as "bad"--just the actions of the individual based on what the current laws of the jurisdiction happen to be at the time.  So, let us set aside those individuals that are trained to actually interpret the law and pass judgment on others by virtue of their qualifications as a judge. Other than those folks, the only other entity I can agree with judging is God (if you believe in such.)

Think about this for a moment. If you believe with all your heart that being gay is a sin, is it your job to judge that gay person? In the Bible it states very clearly "judge not lest ye be judged." (Matthew 7:1) This to me means that I better keep my opinions to myself because only God can judge people. Only God can see inside a person's heart and soul to know and understand the motivation behind the action. Some people feel it is their duty to point out when a person is not following what the Bible says should or should not be done. But part of this verse is that you, the judge, will also be judged so you better be sure you're not also sinning in some way--if you are, check yourself before you fire off at another person. (And here's a hint--we're pretty much ALL sinning according to the Bible).

To move away from a Biblical perspective and onto a psychological one, in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, we operate under the belief that people are doing the best they can. When they act, even if it isn't ideal or "right" -- it is the best they can do. I often say in session to my clients "we're doing the best we can given the information we have at the time." When we make a poor decision, it is not helpful to judge that as "stupid" or "bad" because we made the decision based on the information we had at the time and, of the options we were aware of, we chose the best one. Now, in reality, we probably didn't have all the information. We probably were not aware of lots of other choices that could have been made (and we may see these later on when we're feeling the ramifications of the choice that we made) but at the time, it was the best choice. No one says "oh, yes. I see that this is the best choice but I'm going to not do that thing, I'm going to do this other thing over here, this not good choice." (Unless we're talking about eating a piece of cake when we're on a diet or something like that.) We're trying to be the good guy. We're trying to make the best choice. We all are!

So my hope for you and for myself as I continue to struggle with removing the judgment from my own life, is that we can be aware that we are biased. Be aware that everyone believes they're the good guy. Everyone is doing the best that they can given the information they have available to them at the time. Passing judgment on another because we think we're right and they're wrong does no one any good. It only leads to pain and suffering--sometimes on a mass scale. The Dalai Lama just stated, and I agree, that we need compassion. We need to show compassion to ourselves and to others--even and maybe especially--if we're tempted to judge them.

Just before posting this blog, I read this wonderful story about members of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue going to a gay night club to show their support (their compassion) to those that perished on June 12th. What was glaringly obvious to me was the lack of judgment displayed in this gesture. They went there out of compassion, not judgment, and the experience was meaningful to everyone involved. We need more compassion and less judgment. Its hard to go against our instinct to judge but when we do, we allow compassion to take hold and that is far more meaningful than harsh judgments.