Passing (Negative) Judgment

Over the weekend, I, like many people from around the globe, watched the Masters Tournament. In case you’re unfamiliar, the Masters is a golf tournament that’s been around since the 1930’s and serves as the grandfather of grandfathers golf game. It’s a big deal. Only the best of the best makes the cut, and then they compete on a gorgeous, highly advanced course in Augusta, Georgia.

In 1997, Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament. He was 21 years old.

Now, I don’t follow golf, nor do I follow the celebrity gossip rings as closely as others, but apparently Tiger got into a marital uproar when the media discovered he’d been unfaithful to his wife—and with several different partners. He publicly apologized for his actions. He and his then-wife divorced. Several years later, he was arrested for driving under the influence. As if matters couldn’t get worse, he announced in 2017 that he had undergone four operations on his back in less than two years and, as far as he knew, would never play golf again.

Fast forward to this year, and here we are again at the Masters Tournament. Tiger made the cut. Played against some of the most talented golfers in the sport. And he won. 22 years later.

I was pretty happy and, yes, I cried. The look of joy on his mother’s face, the way he scooped up his son and hugged his daughter, neither of whom had seen him win a major tournament? Just filled my heart with joy. By Monday, I was still on Cloud 9, so I shared the story with a friend. The conversation began with me asking, “Did you watch the Masters?”

“Yes, I did, and, just so you know…I hateTiger Woods.”

Whoa. “Why?” I wondered aloud.

Why? Are you kidding? He’s a cheater. He’s an adulterer, like, twenty-four times over. He got a DUI. His wife was gorgeous, he has two beautiful children, and he screwed around. He’s a piece of…”

Well. I’m sure you can tell the tone of my friend’s reaction. After I’d pulled my thoughts together, I said, “So, what you’re telling me is all those things are irredeemable to you. Right?”

“I guess.”

“So, if someone makes a mistake, there’s no coming back, where you’re concerned. Right?”

A shrug. “Twenty-four mistakes? That’s a lot, okay? He’s an adulterer.”

Yeah. I think we cleared that. The very first—and I do mean the VERY first word that came to my mind was judgmental. Why are people so judgmental of other people? Heck, I’ve been judgmental of other people, I’m sure of it. We all have, right? It’s human nature to judge. But then that word began rolling over and over in my mind to the point I thought, “I’m going to have to write about this.”

So, I did some research.

Let’s be clear on this first: My friend is a wonderful person. Smart, funny, loving, kind. The kind of friend that’d show up to your house with a bag and a shovel if that’s what you needed. The reaction to Tiger Woods’ win was a surprise, to say the least, but I’m thankful, because it spurred the idea for this blog post.

Second: The term “judgmental” isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. By being judgmental, we as humans decide what people we’re most compatible with, what politicians’ beliefs align with ours, who would and wouldn’t make a good mate, et cetera. According to Dr. Terri Apter, “The fundamental workings of the human brain that has evolved along with our need to live with other people is to assess them, both positively and negatively. Our automatic judgment meter is a legacy from crucial survival responses that prime us to assess a person as someone to approach or avoid.”

Fact is, we are hard-wired for survival. When someone does something or behaves in a way we disapprove of, our initial reaction is a fight-or-flight, instant analyzation of—and oftentimes affronted reaction to—the offensive person’s behavior. We tense up, get defensive. Angry, even, as in the case of my friend who got up-in-arms about Tiger Woods. We’re disappointed and, so, we think the worst of that person. We throw negative judgment, without understanding and without intention to find out more through communication.

The key, however, is to realize that our mind is so powerful we harness the ability to pause before we allow ourselves to play out of this mode—the initial, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe…!” reaction.

Once paused, we’re able to think before we speak.

Or send that text.

Or nasty email.

After we’ve had a moment to think things through, well, you have the choice—the power to make something amazing happen: You can change the script. Instead of feeding into those negative thoughts, what if you tried to understand where the other person may be coming from? What if you redesigned your thoughts to come from a place of positivity and love?

Perhaps the biggest problem when someone behaves in a way that sets off our GASP!meter is that our natural next step is to personalize what happened. But it has nothing to do with you. Not even remotely. Each human being on the planet reacts to circumstances in his or her own unique way. And while one person may have reacted and made a choice that maybe you wouldn’t have, that doesn’t mean they don’t experience pain and struggle just like you do. Dr. Barbara Markway said, “When I feel critical of someone, I try to remind myself that the other person loves their family just like I do, and wants to be happy and free of suffering, just like I do. Most important, that person makes mistakes, just like I do.” And while their mistakes may seem greater than yours, remember that life itself is just a matter of perspective. We are all conditioned to belief systems that are completely changeable, if we want them to be.

To delve deeper, when people pass negative judgment on others, it is usually a reflection on their own lives. Low self-esteem leads to the inability to accept yourself as you are and, so, you point a finger at others who, to your mind, are not living life as they ought to or making bad decisions. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way in my own life. But what I’ve also learned is that just because someone’s journey looks different than mine, doesn’t mean they’re on the wrong path.

When you learn to accept yourself as you are—flaws, talents, body, mind, soul—the way you interact with others will change. You’ll love people for getting past the rough points in their life, not hold those rough points against them. If someone wronged you in the past, you’ll find yourself suddenly able to forgive them and then to ultimately let go. When you accept you for the glorious, amazing person you are, you will begin to do the same for everyone around you.

And that, my friends, is one keyway to allowing joy into your heart.

I’ll leave you with the great words of American radio host Bernard Meltzer: “When you forgive, you in no way change the past—but you sure do change the future.”

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