Good afternoon, oh beautiful ones! It’s Monday again, and another fresh start. Isn’t it so freeing knowing that we can wake up every day and decide to release whoever we are and whatever we’ve done to step into who we’re capable of becoming? And if we fall short of that, we can choose to start over again, and again, and again. Part of this feels really liberating, and the other part that can turn into a slippery slope if we’re not careful makes it easy to justify our repeated behaviors by saying: I can do this thing that’s not in line with my values today, and then just become the person I should be tomorrow. Tricky, right? How can we be gentle and compassionate to ourselves without making excuses for the not-always-honorable things that we really should be making a more conscious effort to stop doing?
Good question. I’ll shed some light on this by sharing a personal experience:
Just the other day, I had an encounter with a friend that I’m not extremely proud of. I might not have even noticed that my behavior wasn’t cool, except that this friend called me out right away – leaving me feeling 50 shades of yucky. My encounter went a little something like this: I was perusing my SnapChat stories and came across some videos of my friend enjoying himself on no particular Saturday evening – drinking, smoking, girls, clubs, et cetera. In other words, he was just having fun and enjoying the weekend. The consciously compassionate person would pause before interjecting and ask: Is it kind? Is it honest? Is it necessary? But no, not this girl. Since I’m perfect and have never gone out making less-than-honorable Saturday night decisions (Riiiiiight), I felt compelled to contact him and say: Whoa dude, party much? No wonder so-and-so went “crazy” on you. With that behavior, I would too.
Then, I set my phone down. Devilishly satisfied.
The next morning I got a message from him calling me out on my unfair judgments: Who am I to point fingers? What did he do to wrong me? How did his Saturday night have anything to do with me at all?
And well, the truth is that it didn’t. It had nothing to do with me. Like so many of us are conditioned to do, my own expectations of this person weren’t met, and my personal invested interest left me disappointed, to say the least. When we attach expectations to people, judgments flow easily:
“Have you seen her social media? She’s begging for attention.”
“He keeps saying he wants to make a career change, but anytime I freely offer the help and support it’s going to take to get there, it goes in one ear and out the other. What’s wrong with this person?”
“Her energy level is way up there, and it needs to be way down here.”
“Really? You’re my waitress and you’re going to give me attitude? Isn’t is your job to put a smile on your face and serve me?”
“Do you need a rules of the road handbook? How do you even have a driver’s license?”
And so on. The list can go on forever. So how might we be stronger forces of love for one another on a daily basis? How can we let go of expectations, create a greater capacity for empathy, and start living in a way that establishes a safe space for people to be exactly who they are?
- Condition yourself to find slivers of space between action and reaction
Often, we can put a stop to our judgmental behaviors by adding a simple mindful pause between the stimulus of that thought that creeps in, and the response of however we choose to react: eyerolls, gossiping with others, a direct comment. What if the next time our stream of consciousness is one unfair opinion of someone after another, we just stop, label it as “judgment” and then drop it entirely before reacting? Maybe instead, we think of the various scenarios that Person A or Person B might be dealing with that we have no idea about. Doesn’t everyone have a bad day? If we want to be entitled to our own bad days, shouldn’t we give others that same grace? Maybe we admit that we were just road-raging hard last week, and so today this particular driver gets a free pass while we get a lesson in patience.
If you get to the point where you can be a mindful witness of your silent judgments before projecting, then you’re ready to admit fault. It’s hard to release our expectations of people, and everyone’s guilty. It doesn’t feel good to be judged, and on the flip, it doesn’t feel good to be the person who is then labeled as elitist and judgmental. Neither party feels good. Label the judgment, extend sincerest apologies for casting stones without warrant, and sweetly let the recipient know that you’re working on being more mindful of reacting from a place of compassion and kindness. I guarantee you’ll be heard, and it might even open the door for a conversation about holding each other accountable, where constructive criticism is welcomed.
- Set a new intention to become more introspective
Introspection brings us into the realm of another favorite 8-limb, svadhyaya. Sit down, and write down your core values. What do you stand for? How do you want to be perceived? Are your thoughts, speech, and actions in harmony? What are you doing to propel yourself even closer to living your very best life? It’s unlikely that your judgments will dissipate entirely, but if you can train yourself to become aware of when you’re maybe being unfair, you’re heading toward a shift in consciousness where authenticity is on point and interactions are received with lightness and the ability to LOVE people without stopping to inquire whether or not they’re worthy.
If you’re anything like me and you’re wearing a bright scarlet letter that screams: HER! RIGHT THERE! JUDGEMENTAL! Just be gentle with yourself and place the greater importance on your desire to improve. It’s okay to feel sorry, awful, or embarrassed of your behaviors when they aren’t kind. But, if your compassion doesn’t include yourself, it’s incomplete. Be your own teacher. You are not that judgmental thought you had last week. You are not the two mistakes you made yesterday. You are not the ugly words that came out of your mouth when you reacted emotionally and without thinking. Carry on, warriors, and remember: a little less judgey, a little more lovey!