In my men's group I found myself getting angry listening to a much younger man talking. He was talking about other men and was telling us what he thought of them. I thought he was being arrogant for continually judging other men while steering clear of talking about himself and his emotions.
It was not until a day or so later that I was able to look at myself, just what I was asking him to do, and see the extent to which I was passing judgement. It was not that I was wrong, or right, it was not that he was wrong, or right, we were in the throws of passing judgement.
You cannot judge any man beyond your knowledge of him, and how small is your knowledge.
Indeed how small is my knowledge and how small was my knowledge of this other man. I was looking at my thoughts, my view. I wanted to know what was in him but I did not want to know his opinions of others.
I was projecting, of course. I was expressing my fear around the question of judgement. My fear of what others will think of me, my fear of being unreasonably critical of others.
In the Al-Anon group I attended many years ago I learned a simple process that helped me get beyond being judgemental—it seems I have forgotten it.
Al-Anon is twelve step group for friends and family of alcoholics. They come together to learn how to deal with having an alcoholic in their lives. The first thing I had to learn was to accept the alcoholic I lived with and let go of judging them. Like others, I went to the group to find out how to 'cure' the alcoholic. I was not told I was wrong, I just learned, through hearing the stories of others, that this would not work.
I learned to be non-judgemental in the group by not commenting on the stories of others. We were there to tell our own story and to listen to the stories of others. I came to help others simply by telling my story. They accepted that help by listening. We never judged each other.
This process was critically important because it was about finding that my answer was to let go of my criticism of the alcoholic. I could not change them, I could only change myself.
Walk a Mile in My Shoes
The classic statement on judgement comes from the Gospel of St Matthew,
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
I know this quote well, I have known it for many years, more than I can remember, but accepting for myself....
I can see its truth for others, but that is not the point.
As the song that Elvis sang says,
Walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes
- Do you find yourself judging others?
- Can you accept this behaviour in yourself?
- Can you accept how little you know of the lives of others?