The other day, I witnessed a young man say something insulting and hurtful to the person he was speaking with.
I’m almost 100 percent certain he didn’t mean for it to come across the way it did…mainly because his comment appeared to have come from a total lack of any forethought whatsoever. It was thought-less of him to say.
And, I felt myself judging him. I literally (not figuratively, literally) said to myself, “What a stupid thing of him to say!”
Then, out of nowhere, some thoughts began to flood my mind. They were vivid memories of times from as far back as my boyhood to as recently as…well, much too recently, when I said or did something just as unthinkingly or maybe even just as hurtful. Perhaps the only difference is that while I’m still ashamed and embarrassed* by the realization of the hurt I caused, I don’t believe the young man is yet aware of his.
I do know that I immediately stopped judging him.
This does not mean that what he said was any less wrong or that he is any less responsible for his words and actions. Or, that I am any less responsible for mine. It just means that it’s part of the human condition that we probably all participate in at one time or another.
While we can learn from everyone (even by noticing their mistakes) we probably don’t need to judge them as much as we need to be consciously aware of what we ourselves say and do.
* Yes, I realize it does no good to continue to feel ashamed and embarrassed. We all have our mishegas to work through.
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Another great post Bob. I too have been becoming more and more aware of this in myself. In speaking to don Miguel Ruiz the other day, he drew it vividly for us. He explained that we all have a movie playing in our heads all the time and we are the star of that movie. We choose the co-stars and all the also starring characters the way we see them (usually without knowing too much about their own movie). If I would walk into…say my mothers cinema, I could watch the scene I’m in and say, “that’s not me. I’m not that way at all.” The point is the real work is in our own editing room. I only hope that I can catch the judgment as quickly as you did because there really is no useful value in the judgement. If I can always realize that I’m the star of my movie but no one else has ever seen it, I seem to remain teachable and in far less internal and external conflict and thus, can be more useful and available to others. Thanks for the *. I caught that guilt piece as I was reading and I’m glad you made note. I’m not certain what mishegas means but in context, I believe I have many and today, I’m okay with that and with me. Peace.
Todd: Thank you for your feedback and your very-wise teaching. What terrific thoughts and comments. And, indeed, the wisdom of don Miguel Ruiz is always brilliant and insightful. “Mishegas” is Yiddish for crazy or crazyness. In this context, it means those illogical things in our own minds. 🙂
Great reminder Bob and thanks Todd for those additional thoughts in your comments. Wait, I just judged your posts. Well at least it was positive, ah, just judged myself.
We can’t help it I think but we can adjust our attachment to them and/or re-frame them so they are less “judgmental”. 🙂
Doug: LOL! Very clever, as always! And, yes, I agree with you. Once we’re aware we can adjust accordingly!
Thank you both for reminding me of these things.
Thank you Bob, for the reminder that we can only experience how it comes out of their mouth and how we respond to it, which may not have been how they intended it.
The flip side of this, too, is that people can only experience *us* by our words and actions, not by our intentions, however good or neutral they may be.
Beth: How does the saying go?… “True dat’!” All the way, my friend, including the flip side. It works both ways!
Debbie: Thank you for your comments. I agree. Dogs have got that part of life down perfectly, don’t they? No wonder that we love them so! It’s apparently only a process for we of the human persuasion.
Bob, I aspire to have the attitude towards people that my dogs do- with joy, a complete lack of judgement, and quick forgiveness when they are disappointed by their loved ones. It is a process, though.
Thanks for all you do!
One of the many reasons I appreciate you is that you share that “I’m a work in progress” approach I try to bring to my work. I’m always grateful when people I admire (like you) share the journey. It reminds me “when we know better we do better.”
Happy New Year — hope our paths cross again soon.
Andrea: Thank you. That means a LOT to me! very appreciated. Happy New Year to you, as well!
Thanks for sharing such a vulnerably open and honest story Bob. For me, these are the best kind of stories. 🙂
Isn’t it an oddity that people who seem to be more sensitively conscientious also tend to be those that wind up feeling the most guilt and shame?
The cross to bear for people who HAVE a conscience! : )
Yes, let go of the shame.
It’s the people who don’t have one that concerns me most….and the world!
And perhaps that is what your initial ‘judgment’ was sensitive to.
Thanks for another awesome share Bob!
This is a great example of what ben Zoma told us about wisdom:
The wise person is one who can learn from anyone.
He also said that a rich person is one who is grateful for what he has.
So I ask you, can you be grateful for the shame you felt? Did it not help to emphasize the lesson? And now that you’ve felt it, you can let it go, allowing the sting of it to fade as you heal, knowing that you’ve learned the lesson well, yes?
Thanks for being an inspiration.
Samantha: Thank you for your kind feedback (and, for your tweets!). Appreciated! 🙂
James: Thank you, Indeed, those quotes by ben Zoma are amongst my favorites! Thank you for your feedback and kind words!
David Brooks (NY Times) wrote a short piece called “Living Your Life as Crooked Timber.” We are all a little defective and better get used to it. He writes: People with a crooked timber mentality try to adopt an attitude of bemused affection. A person with this attitude finds the annoying endearing and the silly adorable. Such a person tries to remember that we each seem more virtuous from our own vantage point than from anybody else’s.
You are one of the exceptions, you seem pretty virtuous from my vantage point. Thanks for the great post.
Bill: LOL! Thank you, my friend. I’m not sure I’m as much of an exception as you think I am; your compliment is very appreciated though!
Thank you Bob for your honesty. I try not to be judgmental or critical, but it seems to creep up on me sometimes. Fortunately, I’m usually able to catch myself before I say or do anything that would hurt someone.
I cringe when I hear the statement, “Hey, I don’t mean to judge, but…. ” or “I don’t mean to criticize, but…” lol
In my head, what I hear is “Brace yourself… and here is comes.”
Beth: Thank you for your feedback and kind words. And, yes, those sentence openings sort of trigger what’s *really* coming, don’t they? LOL
One reason I carry a small compact mirror in my brief case (I’m a guy and don’t wear makeup) is to remind me about what I need to spend my time focusing on before feeling the need to judge others. This tip was shared with me years ago by a judge who kept one next to him while sitting on the bench. Most of us, if not all of us, need a reminder every now and then. Enjoyed your post very much. Happy Holidays!
Mitch: Thank you. What a great teaching! And, especially that you were taught that by a man whose job it actually is to…judge others! Now *that’s* a great video blog post for YOU to do! 🙂
We can only learn when we are aware of the things we want to learn about. Self-awareness is such an elusive skill but also the key to understand not only ourselves but also to understand and connect with others.
Thank you for sharing this Bob!
Bruno: Thank you for your comments. Wise words, my friend. Very wise words!
We certainly need more compassion in our lives. I’m certainly prone to making quick judgements myself. I just have to catch myself doing it and reflect that mirror back to me before I hastily point out someone else’s shortcomings. Great post, Bob.
George: Thank you. So glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Great thoughts!
Bob, I empathize with you. Prior to fighting a winning battle against cancer, I was guilty of drawing judgemental conclusions, often instantly and almost daily. One of the most important lessons learned from my battle is to practice awareness of stress causers and upon encounter, to either turn them around or let them go and focus my attention elsewhere. I turn them around by questioning what I see or hear. If I am not satisfied with responses or conclusions, I turn to Google and conduct a little research. Life is short and precious. Every minute we have, every breath we take is priceless; it is up to us, individually, to make the most of our presence on earth. I choose to follow Brendon Burchard’s teachings in living a “charged” life; to live, love, matter. I translate “matter” into making a difference. We can make a difference not only in what we do but pointing out how others make a difference in what we do, and you, Bob, have made a significant difference in my life. You matter to me. 🙂
Barb: Thank you. I appreciate your response and your sharing of such great wisdom. And, I’m VERY glad you won your battle!!