Free From Judgment: At Peace With The Past

The highest form of human intelligence is to observe yourself without judgment. Jiddu Krishnamurti

There’s an old story of two Buddhist monks walking along the far stretches of the Taklamakan Desert. They come across a small stream in Kashgar, and spot a woman struggling to make it across with all her belongings. One of the monks decides to pick up the woman with her things and carry her on his back as the two men cross the stream on foot. Monk #1 sets her down at the other end, says nothing, and continues on with monk #2 still by his side. The two monks walk in silence for miles more before monk #2 speaks up and says, “You know we are not permitted to touch the opposite sex; what you did is offensive.” And he looked on expectantly, awaiting an explanation.

“Oh, you’re still carrying that?” replies monk #1. “I dropped her off 3 miles ago.”

Judgment Presupposes Superiority

Monk #2 sure is dedicated to the Vinaya. As great as that might feel for him, in his dedication he found room to judge a fellow monk for his decision to help a distressed woman, choosing to see the act as blasphemous instead of kind. That judgment call essentially pitted the two men against each other, because it put one man on the stand and the other in the prosecutor’s chair. The court system might have a place in society’s legal circuit, but what happens when that same system inhabits our hearts?

Outside of court procedure, the most futile thing in this world has to be the act of judging. It profits us nothing and serves us in no way whatsoever but to estrange us from those we could love and enjoy—including ourselves. The act of judging presumes right and wrong, bad and good, better and worst. What authority meters that scale and whose opinion governs the actions of another?

Can any of us really presuppose that we have all the right answers? Can you know with certainty the ‘right’ answer for another person? What if their ‘right’ differs from yours? Whatever justification they place on their behavior or actions is entirely their truth and not for you to manipulate. Trying to convince them of a different story, your story, to see from your perspective, is pointless. It’s not about you.

Judgment is what forms constitutions, dogma and religion. It’s one man’s ability to turn the masses against one behavior or belief and toward another. No dogma is an end in itself. It is merely one’s interpretation (and the subsequent interpretations of its teachers) meant as a guide for living. From that stance of guidance, should we choose to accept it, we forge our own paths and assemble our own lessons.

Judgment Demands Alternate Results

Judging demands alternate results when there aren’t any. The past is over. There is no going back and revising what you’ve done. Where you are right now isn’t going to change. All you have to work with is the present moment. What you do in this moment will determine your future results. Your ‘alternative’ starts today—the new decision you make today reframes your outlook and readjusts your course.

By judging the past we put restraints and expectations on the present and corrupt our view of the future. Because we’re so focused on ‘what if,’ we don’t allow the current moment to unfold into its full potential. We blind ourselves to what new opportunities might be here in this moment, and we forfeit our chance at seeing what is.

Judgment and regret go hand in hand. Any regret you have looking back is you judging yourself and your decisions of the past, attached to former perspectives that may not serve you anymore. Why live in the past? What matters is what you do now with what you’ve learned. Living in regret feels like failure; it’s an illusion of limitation and lack. When judging the past, we blind ourselves to the good that may have come from old decisions and interactions; chiseling away whatever needed to be refined and renewed.

From moment to moment, are you preoccupied with condemning yourself for everything you’ve ever done wrong? Or perhaps you’re obsessed with ‘righting’ the path of others? The mere desire to correct anyone’s course, including your own, is judgment. Rather than seeking to correct anything, learn from past decisions and move forward with greater understanding in making new ones. Without judgment, you’re free to grow from the place you stand now—instead of wallowing in self-defeating beliefs that keep you stuck. And you allow others to do the same.

Judgment is Disempowering

The most prevalent form of judgment, and the most debilitating, is when we turn the gavel on ourselves. When we condemn and criticize our past, believing for a “better” predicament than we have today. By judging ourselves, we judge our actions and reactions as well. We denounce or approve. Deny or justify. Validate or invalidate. We need to cut ourselves some slack! Everything we did at any point made sense to us at the time. With all we had in knowledge and resource, we made a decision that seemed most logical or accessible. So don’t torment yourself. Observe yourself, and move on.

Look on the bright side: You’re not dead from it! So live larger now that you’re more aware of what you want and don’t want. We’re here to make for ourselves a life we desire to live. Judging handicaps us from doing that because we are focused on what we want less of, instead of what we want more of. And what we focus on has a tendency to stick around!

Wendy Greer, Success Coach from Learning Strategies Corporation, believes the word ‘should’ must be banned from our vocabulary, and replaced with ‘could.’ She says,

Whatever we‘ve done, whenever, however, at some point it made sense! There’s always a reason. Shoulding on yourself is blaming yourself for doing what made the most sense to you at the time, and [so] we judge our decision-making.

Through the act of judging, you’re denying who you are, or who someone else is. That denial becomes all you see. We blame the old us for not being the new and improved version. But we couldn’t have become the new and improved version without first enduring what brought us to today. You can’t judge yourself and still feel empowered to conquer your dreams, goals or fears. Greer says, “it’s a form of betrayal.” You don’t know who you are without acknowledging how great you are as you are.

From Judgment to Acceptance

Ask yourself, what do you know for sure? And when you answer that question—if you can answer that question—is your answer empowering or disempowering? Does it involve regret or uncertainty? Does it involve judging yourself or another person? While we have to accept the past for what it was, we can’t expect to have all the answers tomorrow either—for ourselves or someone else. We can’t even predict our own decisions tomorrow, let alone what someone else might decide given unforeseen circumstances. With each new day comes a new experience. Experience and activity opens our eyes to new insights. New insights cause change: change in perspective, thought, and therefore, action.

Learn to offer no judgment in a situation. Learn to offer no label. When dealing with conflict, choose to disagree, relate, suggest, opine, intuit, and leave the rest to unfold as it will without feeling the need to label it. Labeling someone or something in the form of judgment does not allow for understanding. Judging is misunderstanding—an inability to see the entire picture. Casting judgment with our limited scope discourages patience because we’re quick to label something before we’ve seen the full effects develop. When dealing with yourself, make the best decision you know how and continue forward. Leaving behind labels…and chains. This is forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go and freeing yourself of the past.

Wendy Greer adds more,

[We’re here] to bring out what’s inside us to the best of our ability; to really expand through that and around that, grow it and evolve it and to move toward total acceptance, and the light that comes with that acceptance is that we’re all perfect just the way we are. We’re just on a journey that’s taken a few detours, but we always have a choice. We can always readjust the route. We can always readjust the outcome.

What’s empowering is: we have the freedom to forgive, grow and choose all over again. Everything we do on this earth is an experiment. A chance to create our utopia. A chance to make a decision, see the results, and then make a new decision. If you view the past as a disappointment or a regret, you’re judging who you were at that time in your life. Instead, grant yourself permission to make mistakes and take another crack at it. There’s no wrong or right. You may come across something that’s not working. But that’s all it is; nothing more, nothing deserving judgment. Why judge a past decision anyway? What are you doing now with what you’ve learned from the results so far? Where are you going to take yourself now? Look at each day from that perspective, and you’ll find a full life ahead. We can grow or we can wither in castigation. It’s always been your choice. It will always be your choice.

How often do you catch yourself in the midst of judging or comparing yourself? How does it feel? What did you do as a result?

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Photo by Steven Depolo

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