The Good Life: The Judgement (Re)call

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Winter is the Cruelest Season

A friend recently told me that March is “Non-judgement Month.” She went on to explain that a colleague was having a rough time last March and declared the entire month judgement-free.

It started me thinking about judgement, and while I certainly support non-judgement as I understand it, I recognize that as humans we make judgements every day: “The roads look slippery, so I will go home early.” “ You look great in black.” “The kids have had a tiring week. Rollerskating Friday night is too much.”  – These are all judgement statements, but they aren’t objectionable (with the exception of not rollerskating). So what is it about judgement that makes us cringe?

In Psychology Today, writer Gregg Henriques sheds light on the subject by stressing, “When evaluating someone’s actions or personality, it is crucial that you understand where they are coming from…” The fly in the ointment. We see the world through our own experience, and make assumptions that everyone else is (or should be) experiencing the same things, even though we know intellectually that this isn’t true. Because we understand our own world experience as the “real” one, we can make assumptions that others are somehow not based in “reality.” Our ego not only likes to be right, it wants us to be better than everyone else.

So practicing non-judgement is tricky, especially if you like to be judgey and a little superior. However, it is essential to work toward ending the meanness. Critical judgement is mean. You will know if you are being critically judgemental if what you are saying diminishes someone else.

So what’s a self-righteous girl to do? First, quit gossiping. Ask yourself, is what you are saying true? Is it kind? If not, you are a gossip. Next, work on your skills as an empathetic detective. Does someone else’s child look a little rough waiting in line for school to start? Maybe the adults in his life work a 3rd shift, and there is little time to get to school. Maybe that child is anxious, and simply getting there takes Herculean effort. Maybe that child and his parents have different priorities. The possibilities are endless. So stop assuming, and start thinking deeply about the lives of others.

This is especially true for families and co-workers. I know that when I come home from working late and find my husband comatose in the recliner, I immediately assume he’s been there all night. I have to remind myself that the scene didn’t start when I entered; It had been going on without me. Seconds before I walked in he may have put out a serious kitchen fire, taught the children the Theory of Dark Matter, and called his mother. We have to stop assuming we know the situation. Is your supervisor distracted and impatient? Maybe it’s you, but maybe that person is struggling with something you know nothing about.

So, I hereby decree that from this day forward, March is the month of non-judgement. Winter is almost past, and we will soon turn outwards after months of facing in. You are whole, good, and well-intentioned. Others are, too.

[Photo credit:drip&ju]


Sarah Mattison Buhl

As a mother of three, Sarah appreciates the extraordinary beauty of the ordinary. She makes her home with her family in Northampton, MA.

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