Judgment Decoded

Judgment has become known as one of the top spiritual sins one can commit. No doubt, judgmental statements that serve no purpose do drag us down. But when you think about it, how much of what we say is not judgmental?
09/26/2012 08:15 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2012
the gavel of justice and a pen...
the gavel of justice and a pen...

When was the last time someone gave you a look and said, "Don't be so judgmental," or worse, when was the last time you said that to someone else?

Funny, I cannot imagine a more judgmental sentiment.

One of the first things people start to recognize when becoming more spiritual or aware is judgmental statements. Unfortunately, they mostly recognize them in -- you guessed it -- other people.

Judgment has become known as one of the top spiritual sins one can commit. No doubt, judgmental statements that serve no purpose do drag us down. But when you think about it, how much of what we say is not judgmental? Can we even separate the subtle judgment we cast on almost everything we experience from the experience itself? Can we improve on anything without judging that what we have is not enough? Can we do better next time without judging our performance? How can we reconcile our ego's constant judgment of just about everything with our understanding that judgment is in some way a spiritual hindrance?

Let's decode judgment.

Emotional vs. Mental Judgment

Let's start by looking at the level of emotions you put behind your thoughts. In this case, your judgmental thoughts. The difference can be seen in this example, where I contemplate a not-so-good meal I'm having at a restaurant.

Emotional judgment: "Ouch! I just paid $50 for this meal, and it stinks! I could have spent that money on a new shirt. Damn that, never coming back here, and the waiter is going to hear about it."

By the time I'm done with that rant, the night is ruined for me and anyone else with me.

Rational judgment: "Hmm... not a great meal. Will not come back here again. Money is gone, so no point agonizing over it. Wanna grab some dessert somewhere else?"

Get the difference? There's a way to judge without sinking into the emotional low of victimhood, the emotional high of trashing something, and the subsequent crash. There is also no anger, blame, or frustration. The judgment was intellectual, not emotional.

Big Judgment, Small Judgment

The kind of judgment that is harmful to us is not really the big verbal judgments we cast on things, people, and events. Those can be limited and are easier to deal with because they are out in the open and right on the surface.

There is a type of judgment that has a more subtle appearance yet affects your life much more profoundly. That judgment is the judgment of the moment. The ego's act of labeling what is.
This is a small subtle judgment, but much like other small things, it is also everywhere all the time.

These microjudgments are so much a part of our thought pattern that it is difficult to separate the judgment from the subject matter of the thought.

The Thought and the Judgment

But is there a difference at all? If I think, What a nice day! Or, Hmm... odd painting, isn't it just one thought?

No, it is not, and here is why.

Our personality is made up of several components. Let's look at two of them: the ego and the observer. (I know those are called many things by many people.) The observer is that part of us that is connected to the universe. It is a part of everything. It also knows something amazing about our existence: Everything is neither good nor bad. Everything is just, well, it is. The observer judges nothing. There is no nice day, not even a day, only now. There is no odd painting as well. Labeling a period of time as "day" and attaching an adjective to it is the realm of the ego. Pointing out the positive or negative is a habitual pattern; the observer would just say, "Hmm... painting."

But is that kind of judgment good or bad?

Judging Judgment

Taking my observer's point of view, as I like to do whenever I can, I prefer to shy away from labeling things as good or bad. Instead, I prefer to analyze things as objectively as my feeble human mind allows me, and I leave the judgment to others.

Here are then my observations.

Good and bad, in my way of thinking, are not tied to any universal truth but rather to one thing: how we feel. We all know what feeling good is like and feeling bad, right? How we feel is the one judgment we can and should be practicing constantly, I believe.

Having said that, anything can only be judged as good or bad as it relates to how we feel. For example, a ripe apple is good because eating it makes us feel good. A rotten apple is bad for the same reason. But an apple rotting under a tree in the orchard has no implication to us and is therefore neither good nor bad.

Judgment is the same; however, what judgment we cast is much more intricately tied to how we feel. See, we tend to think that reality is vast and our words and sentiments are blown with the wind the minute they leave our head. Not so. Our life is an ever-recurring circular pattern. What we emit in the form of a thought, a feeling, or a word will become the building blocks of our reality in the coming days, weeks, or months. Of course, one thought has no real impact, much like one brick will be lost in a building. However, when a large number of our thoughts are of a certain nature -- negative, happy, angry, frustrated, grateful, etc. -- then that will be the color we paint our reality with.

Paint With Pretty Colors

Your life is but a small room painted with your thoughts. Observe and consider your thoughts. As automatic as most of them are, you are the master thinker. You can observe the negative and let it go. Not cling to it.

For more by Hanaan Rosenthal, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.