Lately, I have felt judged by quite a few people. When I thought further on why this was happening, I realized that this has been happening throughout my life. Not only that, I reminded myself that when others judge me it is a mere reflection of me judging myself. This experience of self-judgment is common to so many of us; we usually show no mercy when it comes to judging ourselves.
So, how in the heck did I become so darned judgmental? It seems to me that it was a learned behavior. When I look at the culture in which I was raised, it seems that it is full of judgment:
- This candidate is better than that candidate.
- A successful business must do XYZ.
- Organic produce is better than conventionally grown produce.
- Respect human rights, but disregard the rights of animals.
- Homosexuality is a sin or a disease.
- In order to take care of our health, we must do XYZ.
While judgment is part of the human experience and may even seem necessary when making an important decision, sometimes its exercise clearly does not serve us. I have witnessed numerous times that my judgment has produced misery in myself (for instance, I judged myself to be unlovable). In addition, I have witnessed the judgment by others contributing to the misery in their lives and the lives of those whom they judge (just look at any war for an example of this). Whenever pain or discomfort is experienced in our lives, chances are that judgment is somehow involved.
Judgment is easy to talk about and see when others judge us, but it’s not always easy to see when we judge ourselves. I think this is because judgments are intimately tied to our values and beliefs. We are taught from birth to value certain concepts and things and to believe certain ideas. By the time we are adults, these values and beliefs have been with us so long that we take them for granted. Only a minority of people (from what I can tell) dare to question the beliefs they were taught and ask themselves if they really value the same things as their parents or community. Those who do question certain beliefs or values are ridiculed or punished for going against the status quo. Why is this?
One reason might be that if the questioner is “right,” then the status quo would look bad or lazy or dumb for long embracing the value(s) or belief(s) in question. Another reason might be that it is simply hard to change. If the status quo is comfortable, why should they change and risk losing their comfort or privilege? A third reason has to do with fear. If the status quo has a fear-based value or belief (such as “Vaccines are important for our survival as a species”), then the questioning of this belief or value is seen as a threat to the well-being of a person or community. Of course, a combination of any of these reasons can occur, too. Manipulation of the masses via training or “programming” is instigated by people who may or may not believe a certain concept in order to preserve their comfort, privilege and status.
From what I can tell, “feeling good” is probably the most primal value that we have as living beings. Is there a creature out there that does not want to feel good? Even masochists seek a sort of pleasure in their suffering. How one goes about feeling good depends, I contend, on one’s level of consciousness. Are you an addict who cares for nothing other than getting that hit of feeling good or are you a super compassionate person who does not feel good unless others are not suffering? Wherever you are on the spectrum, your judgments will correspond. Whatever your level of consciousness is, others will be seen as threats or colleagues to your feeling good.
This brings me to the notion of “becoming more conscious.” What is that all about? Well, as we mature from a mere babe to an adult, do we not become aware of more and more? We could not walk if we did not increase our level of consciousness. We could not successfully manage a business if we did not achieve another level of consciousness. We could not have compassion for others if we did not attain another level of consciousness. It seems to me that “becoming more conscious” has many benefits and is worthy of being a core value. However, an increase in consciousness does have its downside, which can be summarized as an increase of sensitivity. As one becomes more sensitive, one notices more pain, discomfort, injustice and apathy. But when placed in a larger context (which is visible to a higher level of consciousness), the pain discomfort, injustice and apathy can be seen as a “gift” (i.e., a signal that something needs to change) instead of something to be avoided at all cost.
Becoming more conscious is a natural and simple process, provided that you don’t let judgment, beliefs and values block your efforts. I have noticed numerous people who get in their own way of evolving their consciousness because they judge such a process as “silly” or “of the devil.” Such judgment is based on values and beliefs that were probably not even self-generated, but blindly embraced from another as previously mentioned.
Given that we live in a culture that seems to value following the norm much more than becoming more conscious, is it any wonder why we have willfully ignorant people that are oblivious to the suffering going on around them and who refuse to question their own motives? Is it any wonder that we have a population of people who see themselves as victims of scary or painful or uncomfortable occurrences instead of seeing themselves as powerful co-creators of reality?
As a person who has always had a strong sense of curiosity, I can confidently say that I have never been part of the willfully ignorant camp. However, I must admit that there have been numerous times that I have felt like a victim. The willfully ignorant don’t want to evolve, while victims can be willing to evolve, but for whatever reason, they have not evolved to the point where they can transcend their blindness to why they feel like a victim. Personal experience has shown that it is hard to stop feeling like a victim because, frankly, there is a certain satisfaction in being a victim: It requires no work to change! Thinking outside of your box, which is key to expanding your consciousness, requires work and is, therefore, often times quite hard. However, it can be done with practice when one is in a calm, introspective frame of mind.
Becoming more conscious shows the folly of judging because all judgment implies a level of consciousness; as our consciousness changes, so will our judgments: Whereas “white consciousness” used to see blacks as inferior to whites, that same consciousness has evolved so that it now sees the two races as equals.
Therefore, when one exercises judgment, one is depriving himself from becoming aware of a bigger perspective. This is why sages throughout the ages have encouraged each of us to “become like little children” or to humble ourselves as a student, rather than see ourselves as one who knows it all.
In other words, an increase in consciousness naturally creates a sense of humility by showing an individual how far he still has to go in understanding why he experiences what he experiences. The more you learn, the more you see that you have much to learn.
If each person embraces the value of increasing his or her own consciousness, the exercise of judgment would greatly dwindle and we humans would not be competing against each other in order to feel good. Instead, we would lift each other up so that we all can experience the bliss that we seek as individuals.