Before launching into a quick perusal of this post, take a minute and quiet your thoughts. Breathe. Slowly, deeply, fill your whole abdominal cavity.
Exhale, feeling the breath trail off.
Stop sucking up information with your ‘vacuum-mind,’ and spend 30 seconds checking in with your body. Notice the quieting. Now, stand in the space you’ve created inside yourself, and take stock.
Where have you hidden that bundle of judgments? Is it over with the family albums that contain memories of your being a less-than-perfect parent, a not-good-enough son or daughter, a failure as a wife/husband/partner?
Perhaps it is buried deeper, in mementos from school days. Past glories, which document expectations of success (everyone said the world was your oyster--so what happened?). Past humiliations, which document expectations of failure (everyone knew you were a loser--if they bothered to notice you at all. It looks like they were right).
Maybe there are only tatters of judgment in that corner while the big bundle is elsewhere. Over in the other corner, with the box of desk-top mementos from that job. You tried so hard. Put yourself into advancing your career, but your best wasn’t good enough. Or, a colleague took credit for your work, and anger still foments over the shame of "being played" or "used."
No? Not career related? Perhaps it is hiding in the mirror, the one that clearly reflects your weight. The mirror that knows all about the ailments that you struggle with: physical debilitations that prevent you from "measuring up," or mental compulsions that keep you bingeing, starving, and self-sabotaging.
And you don’t really have time for this now.
You’ve had setbacks; haven’t we all? But you’ve overcome them. This exercise is for other people, people who have "issues" that interfere with various aspects of their lives.
Ahhhhhhh...Perhaps therein lie your judging tendencies.
Implicit assessments of others, which help define how you position yourself in the world. Judging others is a means by which we all construct and maintain our "unique" identities. I am ‘x’ and others are ‘y’ ‘z’ or even ‘k.’
How big of a step is it from a “neutral” assessment of others to loaded judgments?(How quickly do we take in what others are wearing? How often do we turn to our companions with a critique, an eye-roll, a get-a-load-of-that-outfit snicker, or even a mocking comment able to be overheard by others?)
Judging others deftly deflects debilitating guilt and shame from our own insecurities and perceived inadequacies. And, as long as we live in a Western culture, the list of imperfections is long and added to daily.
Marketing gurus spend millions to enumerate the ways in which we don’t measure up, then tell us what we can purchase to help overcome our inadequacies. Self-improvement is big business. From the expensive Proactiv® creams targeted at teens, to Weight-Watchers and exercise machines, seminars offered through our workplace, parenting skills offered through the PTA, and even faith-based lecture-series sponsored by houses of worship, we are 'reminded' we need to improve.
We should want to improve.
Add to these any given commercial for a new drug that addresses ailments we never knew we had and it becomes clear that culture is teaching us to be unhappy with our (deficient) selves. This is the message that assaults us, day in and day out.
How secretly gratifying it is, then, to identify someone that appears worse off than ourselves; someone on whom we can focus and judge. This person (or group of stereotyped people) becomes a refuge from our own self-indictment.
How big of a step is it, really, from deflecting the self-judgments our culture foists on us at every turn to behaviors that can be experienced, by others, as rejecting, humiliating, bullying?
What a relief it is to position ourselves at a distance from them.
Most people I know do not consider themselves bullies. Like the children of Lake Wobegon, they consider themselves above-average in their capacity for compassion and fair-mindedness. But if judging is a habitual mental tendency, we may be unaware of the line we walk in our relationships with others.
If we don’t accept our imperfect selves, how much of our penchant to gather "facts," form opinions, and label others routinely brings us to the brink of bullying?