Opinion and Special feature
The Arrogance of Unqualified Judges
As we walk through life, we automatically make a mental note of our physical environment and of other people. We see them as black or white. Wealthy or poor. Eskimo or Zulu. Blessing us or hurting us, we consider them friend or foe. We see them as teetotallers or alcoholics. Fat or thin. Driving a Mercedes or riding a donkey. Our mind sees all these differences and takes them as an invitation to judge.
It is instantaneous. We don’t even realise that we do it unless we train ourselves to notice our own mental pattern and stop it before it degenerates into unkind, sometimes even malicious thoughts.
We all fall prey to it. Our society is afflicted with a stubborn habit of focusing on the external, the tangible, what we perceive as ‘reality.’ This stubbornness inevitably leads to blindness of the deeper nature of our fellow human beings. We feel at times incapable of moving beyond what our eyes can see and beyond our conditioned thinking, resulting from an accumulation of life experiences and expectations.
There are very few moments in our waking hours in which we do not cast judgement on people or circumstances. We base our judgements on a host of conditioned reactions as well as on our personal preferences and opinions. Therefore, if we perceive someone as too fat, we label them as lacking self-discipline. If one drives a Mercedes, we perceive them as someone who has reached a certain level of material success. If one has been imprisoned for rape or murder, we classify them as the scum of the earth and, some of us would say, hanging would be too good a punishment.
A judge in a courtroom is presented with all the facts he needs in order to deliver a rightful verdict on the person being judged. A judge outside the courtroom is you and me, without the wig. Yet, we are the least qualified, most arrogant and self-righteous judges to be walking this earth. We bask in the belief that we too, have a full set of facts and therefore can accurately deliver judgement and verdict. Yet, do we ever ask ourselves if we really have enough information in order to judge justly and accurately? We don’t know that the person who bumps into us in the street without apologising is visiting a dying relative for the very last time. Or that the rude and troublesome teenager has never felt valued by his family. We don’t know that the president everyone calls a ruthless dictator is as much, if not more, in need of being loved as you and me? How can we guess that the man driving the Mercedes is not juggling his credit cards like countless others, and that he fears losing his home any time? Can we see that the killer on death row has never felt one droplet of love which could have saved him from killing? Or that the alcoholic we pass every day on the street has an important lesson to teach us in compassion and generosity?
The fact is that none of us is ever in a position to judge another, yet we believe we can. We wallow with all impunity in judging and we spare no one, even if we do not know them. Judging calcifies our ability to make allowances. None of us is having a smooth ride from birth to death. We are all, without exception, learning the lessons that our souls need to gather in our own individual lifetime.
These lessons can at times be joyful and at other times very painful. They sometimes literally feel like hell on earth. Judging others according to the lessons they are going through is withholding our understanding and our compassion. If anything, when about to judge another, we should mentally endeavour to jump into this person’s shoes and imagine what it would be like to be ‘them.’ A North American Indian proverb says that in order to understand your brother, you have to walk in his moccasins for twenty four hours. In fact, a whole lifetime of walking in another’s shoes would still not equip us to judge because we never have a complete set of facts.
We never know enough of the past, the present and the future regarding any soul journey on earth and the lessons it is accumulating along the way, as well as the lessons it is delivering to others. The path anyone treads is only partially visible to another. Can we truly say that a picture is ugly or beautiful if only half is revealed to us?
Passing judgement is not only unwise, it is cruel and dangerous. The victim of our judgement feels blamed and attacked and will inevitably put up defences for protection. Defences destroy lines of communication and can mutate into resentment, hate and revenge. The door giving access to the higher realms of our soul’s potential is thus firmly shut. It is only our willingness to drop judgement that will enable us to reopen that door. And that door to our divine possibilities must be reopened so that we can shine with a brighter light in our own life and in the life of others.
Should we ever be on the receiving end of another’s judgement, we should remember that, like us, they too do not see the full picture and that there is therefore, no need to take offence. On such occasions, we should bless these people by making allowances for their shortcomings and surround them with the light of our own wisdom, in words or in thoughts.
In the wonderful book called ‘A Course in Miracles’, it says that ‘in order to be able to judge, one would need to know all of the past, all of the present and all of the future’. One would also need to know all effects of our judgement on everybody and everything involved in any way; and that there should be no bias in our perception so that our judgement would be wholly fair. I ask you now, who, on this planet, is in a position to do so?
by Isabelle Gravenstein, Editor