Saturday, May 8, 2010

I Am NOT Being Judgmental

Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is 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.
Jesus, Matthew 7:4-5
You ever notice all the people walking about with these huge planks protruding from their eyes? For those of us actively pursuing the philosophy of happiness, the planks typically take the form of judgments. The nature of our judgments is often atypical and as such makes them hard to spot--save for the large protruding planks.

Judging Inauthenticity
To be sure, I find authenticity to be the best way to go. Being authentic saves time, it avoids confusion, it builds relationships that work. Being authentic is useful.

However, being authentic has absolutely nothing to do with the philosophy of happiness. Being authentic is not an intrinsically happiness-building activity. In fact, being authentic can lead to all sorts of consequences about which many of us would be anything but happy. Why do you think we lie in the first place. (Joy and Sree, that was rhetorical.)

Nonetheless, many of us talk about being inauthentic as though it were a bad thing. We may not use the words 'bad' or 'evil' or 'wicked'; however, we might just every once in a while let a 'should' slip into the mix when talking about authenticity. Perhaps more telling is how we respond when someone suggests that we're less than authentic. If we respond defensively (denying and/or explaining), then we're likely judging being inauthentic.

Here's the problem. When we decide that lying (through commission or omission) is bad, we deny ourselves the opportunity to get to the really meaty substance of who we are. We distract ourselves with questions such as 'What is a lie?' or 'Did I really lie?', and avoid the more insightful and cathartic questions such as 'Why did I lie?', or, 'What caused me to avoid, obfuscate, run away, change the subject, blush, distract, deny, or outright fib when thus and such a topic came up?'

If the fact lying is at all important to us, then we're likely judging inauthenticity. When we drop those judgments, we free ourselves to pursue the more useful questions addressing the motivation for lying.

Judging Unhappiness
You seem angry, is everything alright?

I'm not angry; everything's fine.

Are you sure. Because if you were angry, I'd love to talk about it.

I'm am not angry!

Ummm... well... your face is bright red, I can see your veins and your voice is getting pretty loud...

One of the things that many of us do in the pursuit of happiness is to deny our unhappiness. At some point, being happy takes a back seat to being a happy person, the kind of person who is always happy, the kind of person that nothing bothers. We start to judge our unhappiness.

When we do this, the results can be significant. Since denying our unhappiness doesn't make us happy, we do other things to ameliorate the unhappiness; we over-drink, we over-eat, we over-party, we over-sleep. Dialogs become next to useless because we allow ourselves to explore everywhere but the place where the problem is. Lying about our unhappiness (even lying sincerely) has all the side effects of lying about anything else--not that there's anything wrong with that.

Judging Judgments
The biggest challenge is when we begin judging our judging; everything goes nonlinear; all bets are off.

For example, let's say that you noticed me holding a lot of judgments about lying and being inauthentic. You might approach me and point out some of the key indicators. I might be resistant at first, but as I considered your observations, I would likely come to see that indeed I had been judging myself and others for being inauthentic.

Now, if on the other hand, I were not only judging inauthenticity, but also, judging people who judge inauthenticity... well, it's going to take a bit of time for us to get there. Before we could even broach the subject of authenticity, you would have to get past my judgments of judging.

The Judgment Paradox
So, here's the tricky part. On the one hand, our judging blinds us to our own challenges and issues causing us to seek the specks in the eyes of others while avoiding the planks in our own eyes. Judging limits our self-exploration by placing certain areas out-of-bounds. Given this, it's easy to see how we might begin to see judging as bad. It seems a reasonable response. We judge our judging so as to avoid all the nasty side-effects of judging.

Of course, this only exacerbates the situation. So what's one to do?

I have an idea...

Have you ever played Padiddle? Wikipedia defines Padiddle as a nighttime travel game whose objective is to earn points by spotting vehicles with a burned-out headlight.

Now, there have got to be a gazillion versions of Padiddle out there, but when I was a kid, whoever first spotted a car with a missing headlight would shout 'padiddle' and simultaneously punch the arm of the person sitting next to them.

What if instead of spotting burned-out headlights, we spotted judgments: our own and those of others. Just imagine, you're driving around with your friends and you pass a enormous fat guy walking along the road wearing a super-small, neon-pink Speedo, expensive Nike's and an undersized tank-top that declares "Just Do It!" You shout, "Padiddle" and smash the hell out of your buddy's arm.

OK, maybe we'd shout, "Judgment" instead of "Paddidle", but I really like the arm-punching part.

In the end, I think the key to all this is to simply lighten up. The reason we pay attention to judgments is to address their effects, not to eradicate them. Judgments are neither good nor bad. When we have fun with them, we take away their power making them easy to see and understand.

Here's to an interesting drive to the supermarket or soccer practice or...

Happy Saturday,

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