Judging others and how to stop

You know how we all judge but we know it’s wrong to judge so we all pretend we never judge? We say things like, “whatever works for that family” and “she’s doing what’s right for her” and “she’s living her own truth” and stuff like that? And then deep inside we’re actually saying, “OMG, what’s with that?”

We judge for a few reasons, I think. The biggest reason is usually because it makes us feel better about the way we do things ourselves. We’re all a bit insecure about this life business and so very worried about getting “found out”, so finding someone who is doing it even worse than we are deflects people’s attention away from us. Surely that’s why we point out people’s flaws to everyone else.

We also judge because we’re out and out jealous. Why does she get to do that? Who does she think she is? In this case, our judgement stems from not feeling fully able to express ourselves. We resent that other people are doing things that we secretly want to do but can’t or won’t.

Another reason is that we judge something that feels completely alien to us. If a friend makes a choice that you wouldn’t make in a million years, it’s hard to accept that her choice is right for her. We worry that she’s making a mistake and our judgement comes from that concern.

Last weekend absolutely all of these reasons actually rang true for me. I had a simple moment that changed something for me. I think the biggest lessons of our lives are often administered in small moments, not big ones.

I was babysitting for a friend and I was running a little late, so she rushed straight out the door with a “don’t go in the kitchen, I’ll clean it when I get home.” Of course I went straight into the kitchen.

Now, my friend isn’t exactly known for her housekeeping prowess (rather she is known for her sharp mind, dedicated work ethic and tireless enthusiasm), but the kitchen that night was diabolical. Dirty dishes on the counter, the sink, the stove top ranging from breakfast to lunch to newly added dinner. The school lunch bags from the day before were still unpacked. Great mounds of food stuck to everything, including the floor. The soap dish rack was caked in old mould and everything had a sheen of grime to it. This was a kitchen very used to being in a state of undress.

See, judgey, right? I stood gasping at the kitchen door thinking, “I would never let my kitchen get like this, I would never let something go like this, I could never live like this.” My friend is a full-time working mother of four who is actively involved in her community, yet still – even despite my well-known irritation that women are still judged in this way – I felt that it wasn’t good enough. I confess that I felt superior, standing in that doorway; clean and shiny me looming over a grimy hell.

I got stuck into the mess, feeling grand and lofty, doing my friend a great service by restoring order. But then, as I sifted through the piles, I noticed something. And it changed everything.

My friend had made her children pumpkin soup and bread for dinner from scratch.

A small thing, you may think, but to me it was a game changer. I’ve never made my kids bread. I tell myself that I just don’t have time for things like that, but standing in that messy kitchen, I realised that we make time for what we think is right. We prioritise the things that matter the most to us and for my friend that meant forgoing a clean house in order to create nutritious, unprocessed meals for her children. I totally get that.

Judging others is simply judging people’s priorities. Just because someone does X today, doesn’t mean that they don’t appreciate Y. They just think that X is more important right now.

 How often does the fear of other people’s judgement make us compromise what we really want to do? But not my friend; she has her priorities dead straight. God knows, we’d all love to be able to do all the ‘right’ things in this life, but there simply isn’t enough time. Learning to let go of the things that don’t really matter in order to make room for the things that do is what it’s all about. To know ourselves and what we need and to let go of the rest, despite other people’s expectations.

Standing in that newly-minted kitchen that night, I realised that a clean home is important to me, but I did wonder if I sacrifice anything in order to achieve it. If I do, I need to determine whether it’s worth it. Are my priorities in order? Am I giving the best of myself to the best of life?

I put more than a kitchen back in order that night. I put myself back in order too; judging myself, not others.

Do you know what’s important to you? Do you stand by it?
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