Lately, I’ve been thinking about the people I feel safest with. When I look at what all of the safe people have in common, it's knowing that in their presence, I will never be judged. They accept my flaws and don't feel a need to point them out to me. And, even though they may have different opinions and have made different choices, they don’t judge mine. They respect and accept them. They respect and accept me. Judging others is ego driven. It is the antithesis of love. It actually creates a barrier to love. It makes it highly conditional.
Likewise, we internalize being judged. It makes us feel unworthy of love. This is the root of many problems in relationships, especially between parents and their children: the love is far too conditional. I am sad to say I’ve been judgmental of others’ choices and opinions. Why? When I think about specific examples that I can recall, it was usually because my ego had a need to feel right, to feel superior, to feel vindicated in my own choices.
As I have healed more of the broken places. I have found that I don’t have these needs as much as I did. Now, I want to be a person around whom others feel safe. I want to feel safe around others. So how do we begin to move the needle away from judgment, towards practicing love and acceptance, both for ourselves and for others? We lean into it.
For me, leaning into judgment has meant being curious. One of my professors showed us a clip of Ted Lasso the other day. If you’ve watched the show, it’s the scene where Ted beats Rupert in a game of darts. The point he makes is that people have underestimated him his whole life because they have judged him without being curious. By practicing curiosity, asking ourselves why we are judging ourselves, why we are judging someone else, and even why someone else is judging us, we can begin to get to the root of what is driving the behavior.
Research shows that even when we're trying not to be judgmental, as is the case with supporting a loved one or friend, we actually use the same part of the brain when forming judgments of others’ that we do when we form judgments about ourselves and our own choices. We cannot help but judge others’ according to our own perspective. We all see the world through the lens of our own opinions and experiences.
By being curious, we override our natural instinct to judge through our own lens. Instead, we adjust our perspective, making way for us to extend acceptance. In the process, we extend grace. If judgment is the antithesis of love, curiosity helps us to heal by removing the barriers to it. Holding the tension of being able to not only refrain from judgment, but also see another’s perspective, is transformative.
Being able to see how our own perspective skews our view? That is transcendent, lifting us above our own biases, our own experiences, our own ego. Being able to see how someone’s else’s perspective could cause them to judge us, and being able to hold space for that without becoming defensive? That is both challenging and life changing. This is how we lean into love. Is unconditional love possible? I’m curious.
Note: This piece was written with a great deal of input from my husband John. We celebrated our 15th anniversary yesterday. What a journey it’s been. I am grateful for his wisdom, his guidance, and his abiding love. Most of all, I’m grateful that he has leaned into our love, working steadfastly to improve himself alongside me. We continue to push the boundaries of what’s comfortable, what’s challenging, seeing where this work and our love can take us.