We live in a judgmental world.
We live in a world where judgment is entertainment: X-Factor, The Voice, Jersey Shore, World’s <blankest> <blank>, Embarrassing Bodies…gossip magazines like Heat, Now, The Enquirer, Glamour Magazine…and of course, crack open any newspaper and the ink covered in commentaries and opinions far outnumber actual relays of facts, and the hysterical noise generated from them! Everyone wanting to put across their opinion of the situation and to spin their own stories…
…instead of just discerning the facts (or, at least, try to get as close to factual evidence as we can get to).
Discernment is not the same as Judgement.
When you look up their dictionary meanings of the two words:
Judgment: “to judge” is to make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively and wisely.
Discernment: “to discern” is to distinguish mentally; to perceive by the sight or some other sense or by the intellect; seen, recognise or apprehend.
To judge is to create an opinion, either your own or to borrow someone else’s, once you have gathered all the facts you’re willing to gather.
To discern is to see things for what they are, nothing more. No attaching of opinions, judgments, or stories. It’s one step back before you make a judgment, if you will.
Making a judgment marks the end of curiosity, until you actively start searching for more information.
Why does this matter?
Because judgments are ruining your life.
Judgments of other people around you, and judgments about yourself.
Take this example:
“I weigh 60kg and am 160cms tall.” < discernment.
“That makes me fat.” < judgment.
“Being fat is disgusting, therefore I am disgusting.” < judgment.
“But I feel healthy in my body – I eat well, yes, and I exercise and move my body enough each week to make me feel alive. All these things make me feel happy to be in my own skin.” < discernment.
“I have to cut out carbs so that I can be thin – being thin will be amazing, I will finally be happy.” < judgment – you’ve made a judgement call that carbs are evil and that you will finally be happy when you are thin.
“I have to stop eating red meat because it’s unethical and cruel.” < judgment – you have looked into the slaughterhouse process and have judged it to be unethical and cruel.
“I am X…what does that make me?” < judgment – you are judging yourself based on external values, such as what society dictates when someone with the same criteria turns up.
“I am X – society says that being X makes me A, B and C…but they don’t know me, they don’t know D, E and F about me. Society might say that I must be A, B and C, but I actually feel…” < discernment.
Whenever you find yourself thinking or feeling a “therefore” or a “that makes me/you/them” on the tip of your internal dialogue – you can be sure that a judgment is coming.
Judgments directed at yourself can be so harmful – yet, this is often how we try to learn about ourselves: you feel let down because you got on the scales this morning and you weren’t at the weight you were hoping to be, and this makes you feel awful. You take in this information and that little voice says, “Ah! THEREFORE…you are fat, you are worthless, you should be ashamed of yourself…”
What you’re actually doing here is reacting to your own reactions. Your initial thoughts and feelings on receiving new information are your reactions – you feel awful from reading what’s on the scales: that’s your reaction. When that nasty little voice comes along and taunts you, “Ah! THEREFORE…” – that’s your reaction to your previous reaction.
But it’s not your fault. This is how we evolved to understand the world – we take in information, as much as we’re willing to take in, and then we form an opinion, make a judgement call.
It’s part of our survival skills – a wolf is circling in and he’s growling and bearing his teeth – the judgement call here is that you’re in danger!
But we don’t live in that world any more – the dangers have shifted from wolves to public and societal opinion, and avoiding being ostracised – because in being left out and left alone, you could have died, it was threat to your survival.
Except that today, being alone is not a direct threat to your survival any more either. Our biology just hasn’t quite caught up to it yet.
So what do you do?
Honour this process your body tries to take you through by:
1 – recognising it when it kicks up,
2 – acknowledging it’s presence, then
3 – get present. Get here, into this moment. What do you smell? What can you hear? How does your mouth taste? What are you doing with your hands right now? Is the wolf about to eat you? No? Ok. Breathe.
4 – figure out your options – you can either follow your impulse to judge, or you can choose to take a step back, and discern what’s going on, without getting drawn into the stories and feelings you’re feeling.
By the way, that’s the hardest step of all – firstly, recognising that you have a choice, then consciously choosing a path to go down.
5 – be gentle with yourself, whatever you choose to do. Have mercy on yourself – don’t judge your judgments, or judge your reactions. There absolutely is a time and a place to judge, but this is not it.
Being judgmental towards yourself is not something that can be magically changed overnight.
Discernment is an Art: it’s something that needs to be constantly worked on and practised.
But when you take the time and space to learn this gentle Art…
…it transforms the way you see everything around you and about you.
It makes you kinder towards yourself and the people around you.
It gives you space to expand, and breathe, and to allow you to take your rightful space on this planet.
This is something I’ve had to learn myself over the last couple of years, but it was only last year that it really clicked for me. It allowed my heart to grow and hold more of life, so that I could go through difficult times and be able to function, and I could come to terms with difficult times more quickly and move on from them too.
I hope that this post helps you get started in learning this Art.