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Published:July 31st, 2013 10:30 EST
Why We Do It and How To Get Out of The Judging Habit

Why We Do It and How To Get Out of The Judging Habit

By Jay Forte

I am gay. Having said this, you are already making judgments even though you know nothing else about me.

Let`s try again. You see an Asian college student at Brown University. Again, more judgments. Maybe these are more positive than what you thought about me being gay, but a judgment is a judgment " whether positive or negative.

Another one. You see a tattooed 20-something girl with pink hair. More judgments. More stories we tell ourselves about who they are and how we feel (and should feel) about them.

Final one. You see an African-American teenage male. This one is in the news.

So, I have two questions about all this judging:

  1. Why do we do it?
  2. How can we change it to serve us better?

Why do we judge?

All of the events, information and experiences of our lives create the people we are at this very moment. We listen to parents, teachers, the news, our friends, fellow workers " and we frame our understanding of who people are by what we have heard and experienced. This is how our brain works; we base our responses on what we believe to be true. Most of what we consider true " is really nothing more than a thought or perspective we heard from someone else or interpreted from an experience.

We use this information gathered to judge and assess what to do next. This is partly a defense mechanism " our judgments are ideally in place to keep us safe. We are always assessing for danger (fight-or-flight) as part of our intrinsic hardwiring to survive. But so much of the time we react instead of respond. We see people who look like something we have heard or seen before and we react " we judge. Judging makes us jump to conclusions that may not be true. And in the four situations above, I have more information that will likely prove your initial reactions and judgments wrong.

How can we change our judging to serve us better?

The important thing as we step into question two is how can we focus on getting out of reacting and move into intentional responding. In each moment of each day we have the ability to challenge our programmed thinking and automatic judgments with thinking that is more aware, more present and more intentional. If our judging keeps us and those around us small, it likely isn`t serving us very well. How can we start to respond instead of react, to think instead of to judge?

I need to share another important thing about brain biology. Each of us is distinctly different. As we develop, our DNA creates brain connections are unique to who we are " we develop a combination of talents, strengths and passions that are unlike any other. Each of us has very distinct abilities " I`ll call it our greatness. We can`t regularly detect this greatness by looking at the outside of person; our outside doesn`t always indicate our inside. I call this the M&M approach to living " the candy coating (our outside) is not where our true value is; our value is in our filling " who we are, what we are good at, passionate about and what matters to us. And each of us is created with something amazing, awesome and great, irrespective of our exterior. And by judging the exterior, we bypass the interior greatness.

The wonderful Hindu greeting (Sanskrit word) Namaste sums it up best " may the divine in me acknowledge the divine in you. " We are aware that in each of us is something great " something divine " even if we haven`t discovered it yet and have not yet decided to live it. This greatness " resides in our filling. "

So back to question 2 " how can we change our judging?  We realize that others have intrinsic greatness that is worthy of discovering, not simply assessing their exterior as any indication of their interior.

So with the label of gay, many people immediately tell me what is wrong with me. They have, for all of my life, quickly identified that I for some reason have no morality, am an embarrassment to my family and do nothing but party. For the record, none of these are true. I spend my time in a committed relationship, writing, speaking, teaching and inspiring people to live their true and best lives, regardless of what others say.

With the label of Asian college student at Brown University there is the judgment that this student is smart and studying math, medicine or engineering. What they don`t know is she is a theatre major, does stand-up comedy, doesn`t speak Chinese and has been raised in New England.

With the label of tattooed 20-something girl with pink hair, she is regularly accused of using drugs, into the grunge scene and being a drain on society. She is top of her class studying engineering in a program full of men. Tattoos are art for her, so is her hair. She believes in great self-expression and studying engineering is part of her focus on art.

With the label of African-American male teen, he is regularly followed in stores, stopped by the police and presumed to be up to no good. He is a high school honor student who plays football, gets good grades and volunteers when he has time.

To discover this we have to engage others. I met these three amazing people on my flight last weekend to New England. Amazing people are everywhere, covered by identities about which we have judgments and reactions. Eliminate the judgments and we all get glimpses of others` greatness " the things we can`t see until we take the time to connect with them as people.

Here is the thing about judgments " they keep us small. They keep us in our stories and the encourage us to use generalizations. That means we keep others small. We automatically label people without thinking. What if instead, we spent a minute with someone to discover their greatness instead of presumed they are the labels we imagine them to be?

The world is built by those who are right here, right now. What if we were to encourage a more significant awareness that there is greatness in each of us, regardless of the packaging we come in? And that to connect to this greatness, we each need to know ourselves, be ourselves and allow others to be themselves. In this moment we would see the greatness in others as our first reaction, instead going directly to the role of judge and critic. We would support others in their quest to be fully aware and to self-develop, instead of insisting they look, act and be who we need, want or expect the to be.

Shift from reacting to responding. Gather information, then respond. Disconnect from your judgments knowing that we are each greater than we give each other credit for. Try to get past the outside to see the inside " get past the candy coating to see the filling " because that is where greatness resides. Don`t miss it.