How We Judge Others Is How We Judge Ourselves

The other day I spoke to a friend about my confusion regarding judging and being critical of others. I said I disagreed with the often heard statement _ “how we judge others is how we judge ourselves”.

To me, a classic Virgo personality, the cardinal sin that anyone around me can commit is to live even a day, without purpose and meaning. My friend’s critique of me was quite a revelation! He said that I am one of the most self-critical people he knows; that every time I catch myself procrastinating or even lazing about, I severely reprimand myself and quickly get back to my endless “to-do” list!
Whoa! I really did live in constant and harsh judgment of myself?

So, much to my dismay, I had to recognize that it’s true. The way you measure others is how you measure yourself…and how you assume others measure you.

If you measure your life by your family relationships then you will measure others by the same standards. If they are distant from their family or don’t call home enough, you’ll judge them as ungrateful, irresponsible regardless of their life history. If your measure of life is fun and partying and someone else prefers to stay home and watch T.V. you’ll judge them as inhibited, dull or simply scared of socializing, regardless of their personality or needs.

Whether we believe that everyone should find salvation through Jesus or decide on suicide through bombing himself isn’t the issue _ the fact remains that the yardstick we use for ourselves is the yardstick we use for the world.

Though the more important point is that if I think that violence or malice or arrogance is wrong, I ought to judge these within myself too. That would reflect who I am and I would be making a conscious choice to discern and not make a judgment on autopilot.

The times we neglect conscious awareness and introspection are those where we view others through our narrowed lens of self-judgment….if we think we’re lazy we’ll see the way people cut corners as well; cheaters assume everyone else would cheat if given the chance to do so; its why those who can’t trust are the ones who can’t be trusted.

 The interesting point is that many of us adopt our own internal yardstick, not through conscious choice but through the shaming we’re subjected to. As one of my teachers said, “everyone is either trying to prove or disprove who they were in high school,” because for many of us, our measure of ourselves is defined by how people viewed us as we were growing up. We develop a fixation in any one area of our lives because it’s the area we felt people judged us the most. For example, the loser who throws the biggest parties, the slacker who wants to prove how smart he is, or the pretty little girl who is obsessed about losing her looks are all still in high school emotionally! 

Most judgments of others are ego strategies to avoid uncomfortable feelings. However, if we lack the awareness of where they come from, they can lead to more discomfort later on. Becoming aware of the nature of your judgments doesn’t mean that you no longer have preferences. But with discernment, a deeper understanding kicks in. Discernment means awareness without an emotional response. Exercising discernment feels very different from getting your buttons pushed. Judgments that cause emotional reactions are clues to help you find personal insights and they can be a mirror to show you the workings of your own mind; every person’s reflection can become a valuable gift, making each person you encounter a teacher or a blessing.

A big part of maturity is not just to recognize our own fixations but to see that everyone has their own metric standard and it’s not the same as ours….and that it is simply part of being human. To accept that we cannot change another’s values for them is the most important step to consciously choosing healthy and satisfying relationships.