When in darkness, the cure is light.
For sadness, the remedy is joy.
It is exactly as taught in Sunday school prayers.
Since embarking on a spiritual path I adopted the practice of non-judgment many years ago. Though I fall off the path more often than I would like, I try over and over again to bring myself to not judging others. Interestingly, I find myself very non-judgmental when in the company of people that mirror my own behavior, attitudes, and interests. When they are like me, I do not judge them. It’s so funny how that works.
It gets harder with people who are not like me to then stay in my practice but it they who are the ones that in fact help me to continue moving time and time again to non-judgment. Over and over, I fall into the old habit and find myself thinking that someone should change their behaviour because I don’t like it. I may also find myself mentally chastising someone for not having more strength in the face of a difficult life challenge. “Where is their character?” I ask myself, and catch myself, having a decree about that person. Luckily, over the past five months I have witnessed a situation that has turned my practice on its head.
A young woman, barely out of childhood, moved into an apartment close to a colleague’s office. My colleague began voicing observations about her. “She seems to never go to work”, he would say. I did not answer him but simply listened and observed. “She has a dog and doesn’t seem to walk it enough”, was another comment. As weeks went by the comments came more often and became more caustic. “She’s so unproductive. Why doesn’t she get a job?” “She’s lazy and messy.” “She can’t get out of her apartment before noon.” “She can’t even put her recycle garbage out properly.” The comments continued and I simply listened but they dug painfully into the core of my being. I observed what it looked like to hammer down a ruling about someone, let alone someone my colleague didn’t even know, and I felt the sting of that ruling, time and time again.
As weeks went by the comments continued nearly every time I saw my colleague, who declared he now avoided the girl completely. He decided it was best to not speak to her or notice her at all because she wasn’t worth acknowledging. She became invisible to him. My heart began to sink with every negative comment and every reported event of shunning. My heart bled for this young woman and how she must have felt. I felt a slash in my stomach with each cutting blow. Eventually, I had to choke back the tears when a comment was voiced but I continued to remain silent.
As life events would have it, I knew the girl and I knew she suffered from depression. This however, was not my story to tell so I kept it to myself. The girl suffered judgment by my colleague and I suffered from watching how someone with depression is treated by those who judge. More importantly, I saw what judgment looks like and how it feels to be a witness to it. From this, the truth became clear to me; when I judge I am simply projecting areas of myself that need to be healed onto someone else. When I judge someone for not being emotionally strong enough, it’s likely there is some area of my life where I feel weak. If I judge someone for being dishonest then this calls me to look at my own integrity. When I judge anyone for anything at all, this is the very thing I need to see in myself. Judging is the perfect trainer for those things that need to be exercised. When I see despair in others, I need hope; when I see darkness in others, I need light, and where I see sadness, I need to find my own joy. It is exactly as I was taught in catechism class as a child.
So the young woman unknowingly played a vital role in the practice of non-judgment. It was the perfect play where the characters affected me profoundly and changed how I looked at life. They made me see judgment from an entirely new vantage point; one where I just don’t want to be. My practice is getting a little easier every day.
With love and acceptance,