Dancing with judgment
Perspective + Truth
My experience of people is that they love to share their perspective on the world. I find them freely offering their value judgments in the most colorful and seductive ways. Up until a few years ago I was the biggest proponent of my own point of view. I believed it was the closest thing to absolute truth that there was! There were simply things that I knew were truth, and if you didn’t agree with me then you were clearly mistaken, right?
For example, I have a pretty clear notion that Donald Trump is a buffoon. It would be easy for me to find a whole bunch of people who agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. But is this perspective true? If I looked hard enough I would inevitably find people who wholeheartedly disagreed with me. Another truth that I knew to be right was that everyone should always eat organic food. I promoted this idea quite vehemently to family, friends and acquaintances, even in the face of their disinterest or obvious annoyance.
Fortunately for me, I have a wonderful family and friendship circle that regularly remind me of their perception of my shortcomings and faults. These helping hands along my path to humbleness has since tempered my arrogance and encouraged me to see that the world isn't so black and white.
So how do we navigate this world of conflicting ‘truths’? When another’s perception of the world is different from ours, how do we resolve these differences? Do we even need to? Is there a way to allow for another’s view to co-exist with our own and the relative truths of each view to be honored?
Compliments + Criticisms
What about when another’s ‘truth’ is about us? When value judgements are projected onto us in the form of a compliment or a criticism, what do we do? Does our needy self eagerly suck up the compliment with an enthusiastic “why, thank you!”, or does our rebellious self reject the criticism with a stoic “screw you!”. Or even more interestingly to me is when we willingly accept the criticism and reject the compliment. I wonder if these strategies are familiar to you?
If we allow ourselves to be affected by the judgments of another, whether we deem the judgments to be positive or negative, do we give away our personal power? In my experience, this is usually the case. What is true for me is that a judgment or observation projected onto me by another tells me about them and nothing about me. It gives me information about how they're experiencing me in that very moment, and nothing more – unless I choose for it to mean more.
Creating an island of the self, isolated and completely unaffected by the world and people around us is not what I'm suggesting. I actually tried this approach and found it to be devastatingly lonely. My exploration has shown me that I need to be penetrated by the world, by the feelings, judgments and ideas of people. I find I feel much more connected and available to the flow of life when I'm open to this deeply empathic resonance with ‘other’. The distinction here is to maintain that center of self, that core identity that maintains its sovereign right to respond to these external forces rather than reacting whimsically to them.
center + Choice
It's in my power to create my own internal reality. From that place of centeredness I can accept and feel the externally offered version of reality and choose whether or not to make it my own.
Handing the ownership of a value judgment back to people can be a powerful technique to acknowledge this place of centered self. The statement “Thank you for sharing your experience”, allows for the truth of another to be acknowledged and considered. From there I can choose to claim it as my own or let it go.
On the flip side, when we want to share a value judgment that we have about the world or a person, we can simply state; “In my experience…”. This beautiful phrase allows us to own our projected view of the world and gives room for the person we're sharing it with to form their own view. In my experience, this phrase has been the most wonderful training tool for non-violent communication.
This dance with Judgment, the to and fro of our projections at each other is a window of delight for me. I realize that I can allow myself to fully feel another and their views with compassionate acceptance and still hold space within myself where neither compliment nor criticism sways me from my desired state of being. This, to me, is truly living artfully. It's the T’ai Chi of relating, where we never yield our center, yet allow the forces of the world to flow around and through us in a divine dance. For me, interacting with the world, people and most importantly myself, with this level of care, respect and appreciation can lead to a harmonious way of being.