One of the lessons I remember learning growing up was how we should not judge others if we did not want others to judge us. For some reason, I found that hard to believe as I figured they were going to judge me anyway. Now, I realize that what others do is about them. My judging is about me. What got me thinking about this was something don Miguel Ruiz wrote in the Companion Guide to the Four Agreements. “We judge others according to our image of perfection as well, and naturally they fall short of our expectations.”
It made me stop and think about what my image of perfection is for those in my life. What is my image of the perfect partner? For my children (that includes all those who have adopted me as their mom)? For my parents, when they were alive? For my closest friends? For my brothers? For my relatives? For Zoë’s relatives? For those I journey with? For those I work with?
So if I think perfection is love, when it comes to me, do I feel the same way when it comes to all the others in my life. When do I find myself judging others? Am I even aware of when I am judging?
As I was sitting here thinking about this question, I came to realize how difficult it is to overcome other judgment. If one thinks it is hard to learn how to stop self-judging, then learning how to cease other judgment may be just as difficult. Perhaps this is why most Toltec life coaches suggest putting this off to later in the journey. However, as I wrote about earlier in the week, I am never one to walk away from something because it is scary. That is when I push myself through. I tap into my inner courage and do it anyway. I have never been one to be afraid of what I am going to discover along the way. I have always been one who tries to do the hardest stuff first; then it gets easier as it goes. Some people I know like to do the easier stuff first and save the harder stuff for last. We all have our own ways of traveling on our paths.
One of the things I have realized as I have been thinking about this is how infrequently I am aware of how often I judge. It is when I became intentional about being aware of when I am judging that I became aware of the thoughts, which drifted through my head like clouds floating across the sky. It is those moments when I find myself saying, if that were me then I would. It is not that I am saying someone is more or less then a specific quality, but sometimes judging their choices. I could make an excuse and say that in part this comes from my vocation of teaching, where I am required to judge others work. I get paid and make a living, at least partially, at judging others competency of the material. However, that would be me trying to get off the hook and make excuses for being judgmental.
As I have looked back across my life I came to realize that some of the most hurtful and disappointing moments in my life have come when others did not live up to my expectations, especially when those in positions of power and spiritual leaders did not live up to my expectations. Perhaps that is why being clear on what our expectations are of others are is important.
With some of my former partners, I had expectations of what the perfect partner was and I guess they did too. For whatever reason, we were not meeting each other’s expectations. With Zoë, I learned to love her for who she is at any point of time. I do not expect her to be or do anything. So whatever she does feels like a gift. She has those things, which bring her immense joy, and they are very different then what brings me immense joy. I do not expect her to experience joy in the same way I do or to like the same foods I do. She is who she is and perhaps one of the things I love most about her is that she is not a makeover queen. I have a few people in my life who would say you would be perfect if only you would do X. Zoë has never said that to me. Nothing about the every changing external has made her love me more or less.
As I started to think about what my image of perfection is for all those in my life is it came down to one trait: love. It is not so much what people say or do, but the intention and aura that surrounds them and our interaction. My question can be found in the title of a Black Eyed Pea song, “Where is the love?”
My love for others grows, when I am able to love them unconditionally for who they are at that very moment in time. My love for them grows when I am able to understand their expectations and beliefs about a situation. My image of perfection for all those in my life is love. At the same time, I realize that we are each at different places in our journey and ability to express and receive love. So be the best expression and image of love you can be at any moment in time.
So what do I do, when I find myself judging others? I stop, sit with what I am doing, look at why I am judging, what assumptions was I making, what expectations was I making, and forgive myself for that judgmental moment. I remind myself that we are each perfect just as we are and judging places a negative energy in the environment. Just as I had mastered being judgmental, I must now continuously practice being non-judgmental until I have mastered that way of being in the world. As Shirley Caesar once said, “I cannot sweeten the entire Atlantic ocean, but I can take one pitcher of water and sweeten that.” I cannot change the world, but I can change the immediate environment in which I live and with all of whom I interact on a daily basis and I can make it easier for others to know the answer to the question “where is the love?