Judgment and How It Shows Up in Our Lives
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Luke 6:37
Judgment is a word that has almost polar opposite meanings and effects, depending upon how the faculty is used. Paraphrasing what Charles Fillmore says in his book, “The Revealing Word,” Judgment which takes the form of Spiritual discernment evolves through an inner voice as a way of coming into a greater understanding of ourselves and of others. It requires a state of consciousness in which we are connected with God, with that aspect of God that lies within us. And, like God, there is no real judgment as we typically understand the word, because God doesn’t judge. What It does is allow us to see with eyes of understanding, compassion, and love or, in a word, discernment. And that is what we must access in order to wisely venture into a greater level of self-awareness and, ultimately, self-acceptance.
What most of us are taught is that God does judge! Just think back to what you were taught when you were very young. Depending upon the particular religious faith in which you were raised, the teachings reminded us that “God was watching and we’d best make sure we followed the ten commandments, that we were born in sin and that Jesus sacrificed his life for us.” Or something akin to that. Yes, Jesus may have loved us (“…the Bible tells me so.” as the hymn goes), but God was often described in both words and in paintings as a wrathful presence. At least those were the images I recall from my youth.
These religious teachings were a basic part of our life fabric, fundamentally embraced in most American cultures and by most families, drummed into our heads by our parents and sometimes our teachers before politics and governments began to legislate what was allowed to take place in schools and prayer was banned or at least silenced so no one would be offended by the Lord’s Prayer.
In a few words, most of us have learned to judge the world around us and ourselves. It is this consciousness of judgment that is at the root of all that separates us from others and from aspects of ourselves. We’ve taken all those rules on how to survive in this world and have used them to do just that. Survive. Judgments and comparing ourselves to others, comparing others to ourselves, comparing others to others…these are the various ways we survive, get ahead, achieve success, and accomplish our goals in life. Or not!
These may seem like sad truths to swallow about the state of us human beings, but the real truth is that’s not who we are! We are spiritual beings made in the image of God having a human experience. And that human experience is largely directed by a set of beliefs fashioned during our early years and then taken on by us as truth. And like all “truth,” it is the truth if we believe it!
Here’s another fact: we have the power of choice. We can change our lives in an instant, the moment we open ourselves to compassionate inquiry, to a greater level of self-awareness. But let’s take this one step at a time. The balance of this chapter will lay out for you some of the ways judgments—the limiting kind—have shown up in my life and what some of the consequences of those judgments have been.
It is my hope that you will read this while being very aware of what feelings arise within yourself and what thoughts surface about what I share with you. It’s important that you resist pushing those feelings and/or thoughts down and out of your conscious mind (there may be a part of you which believes you shouldn’t have such thoughts and wants to deny them) and that you also be aware if you find yourself engaging in mental “self-talk” similar to the ones I shared with you in Chapter One.
Or you may become aware of critical or divisive thoughts about me. Thoughts like “He ought to be grateful someone did adopt him! He could’ve ended up growing up in an orphanage or home for unwanted children!” or “Boy! I’m glad my life hasn’t been anything like his!” Can you see how such thoughts carry with them a seed of either judgment or comparison, both of which separate us?
I can assure you now that all of these bits of “awareness,” including those that your human-conditioning may urge you to resist and bury, are actually happening, are being brought to you by the grace of God, that God-self within you. It is giving you the gift of awareness so you can look at it—again, with compassionate curiosity—and release it in a consciousness of new understanding, and of love and gratitude, as you connect with and own all the divine powers available to you.
I’m very aware of the origins of my learning to judge. They began to evolve and take shape during my very early years—between years four and eight. Those were the years when I was struggling with trying to fit in to a family of three, a family into which I was adopted.
My new father was a “man’s man” kind of guy raised in an age when there were very clear social and cultural beliefs about how men and women were supposed to be, and little boys were supposed to act as much like men as they could. He was not a “warm and fuzzy” person (few men in those days were because it wasn’t manly) and I interpreted his way of being as a reflection of my inability to “measure up.” Boys weren’t supposed to cry and those who did were referred to as sissies or pansies. And while my father’s branding me as a sissy was limited to using the term to describe my actions (“Stop acting like a damned sissy!”), you are probably familiar with the saying, “If it walks and quacks like a duck, it probably is.” These moments seeded the beliefs “I wasn’t enough” and “I don’t measure up.”
My new mother was an interesting product of the times. She didn’t fit into the classic Pepsi Cola and Good Housekeeping images of women, although she was very attractive when she dressed for a special occasion; she was a bit of a “tomboy” and could hold her own in any game of softball, badminton or basketball. She was also the parent I looked to for emotional protection, particularly when it came to my father. She was almost always able to smooth out and bridge the obvious divide between my father and me. I learned I could trust her to be very subtly in my corner, but it was a conditional kind of trust. I was always doing my best to please her in ways that, looking back, were quite sweet. I believe now that she recognized me as a child of God, perhaps a bit too sensitive but she seemed to understand.
In those early days I was also fed information—misinformation, much of it—about my birth parents and here’s what I remember hearing. “No one knew who your father was and your mother was a trollop and had to give you up.” That misinformation translated in my brain and heart as “I’m unlovable,” “I’m not wanted,” and “I’m damaged goods.” It was only when I was much, much older that I would learn the real truth about my birth parents and siblings I never was told about until I actually met them.
The other member of my adopted family was their natural son, the one they gave birth to and who I saw as their “real” son, once again seeing myself on the outside of this family, not as a bonafide member of it. He was five years older than I and he became the standard against which I never felt I met. “I didn’t measure up!” Despite these feelings and beliefs, I idolized my brother. He was handsome (better looking than James Dean I used to think), he was well-liked by everyone, and he was clearly the “apple of his father’s eye.” He could also be very caring and I so wanted him to hold me and tell me I mattered. I wanted from him what I wanted from my father and wasn’t getting. Looking back, I realized I wanted to be held because in all the first six or seven years of my life, I have no recollection of ever being held or touched by anyone, in a good way at least. And all of us need that. But being aware of this need only reinforced the fear that there was something wrong with me.
So those were some of the negative self-judgments I took on. And of course, as I grew into an adult and left home to make a life for myself, I found myself judging others. Why? Because when one grows up comparing themselves to others, wanting to disprove the self-judgments we’ve come to believe, we’re most likely going to “come up short.” And there is a lot of emotional pain attached to self-judgments, so we either push them down out of our minds and allow them to fester or we project them out onto others. “It’s their fault I feel this way! They’re not very nice and you can’t trust people like that! We lash out or if we’ve learned how to be subtle in expressing our judgment and our anger, we couch what we say in a passive-aggressive manner. Little “gotchas!”
I learned during my first eighteen years many more things that I carried on into all of my relationships as an adult. Here are a few of them. Seeing how my mother and father related to one another, I learned that the man was supposed to be the head of a household, that the wife was subservient and shouldn’t question her husband, that each had their areas of responsibility. The man assigned a certain amount of money that should be spent on household expenses and that while all the money they earned went into joint accounts, one for savings and one for checking, any major purchases had to be discussed before either spouse ordered or purchased it.
Women were supposed to take care of all the housecleaning, laundry, cooking and sewing, making the beds, etc. The man was responsible for the garage and all outside maintenance of the lawn and shrubs and plantings. I carried these beliefs into my marriage and one of the consequences of all these shadow beliefs was I almost pushed the love of my life out of my life after she finally claimed her own inner powers and left me seven years into our marriage. That was a wakeup call for me and I thank God for that very painful period, for it forced me to look within and begin the long journey toward a greater understanding of God’s presence in my life.
As for other relationships, I found them hard to form. It was difficult for me to just be myself because of the low self-esteem I had and because I wasn’t able to trust others. I had to keep my distance. It made for a very solitary existence and a pattern of avoiding any activities that involved team work, preferring those interests, like music and art, that allowed me to use my talents.
I should also mention that, for the years between my eighteenth birthday and a dark, rainy night in 1973, when I reached a point of no return and surrendered, alcohol and drugs had become my tools of survival. They allowed me to numb the emotional pain of carrying on all the hidden false beliefs which were slowly taking control of my life, a life that was spinning out of my control. All in an effort to hide my secrets.
I have hopefully shared with you enough about how judgment showed up in my life, what its sources were, and some of the ways it impacted my life. And having accomplished that, I also hope that you’ve had an opportunity to identify some of the sources and impacts of judgment in your life. As I’ve said before, it’s important you treat yourself with compassion and understanding as you allow what may have been hidden in the shadows of your subconscious mind to surface into the light. For as we move into the Light and claim our God-selves, we discover what the shadows have been hiding: the false beliefs and an awareness of our divinity and the unlimited possibilities that await us when we allow the twelve spiritual powers within to be expressed through us.
In the next chapter we will explore ways to suspend and transform those judgments.