I find that criticism or judgment of others is directly related to our own sphere of understanding. This may be an obvious point, but let me share what I mean. I live in the “Bible belt” of America; there are churches on almost every single corner in town with many faith-based activities in the area. During one such event – a music concert – there was a woman down front who was really rocking out to the music. Now the music was very contemporary with guitars and drums and the whole bit, but she was really into it. At first I watched her with unease, almost disdain, because of her jumping and thrashing around. But as time went on, I stopped watching her with judgment, and it shifted to awe. Here was a woman who had no other focus in life at that moment but her connection with the music and God. She had zero concern for the world around her, including the people who may be witness to her exuberance.
When I realized the carefree moment this woman was experiencing, I was envious. I started to think, why am I not having that same sort of experience? I decided it is because of two reasons, and both of them involve judgment. 1) I still hold some concern for how others will see, therefore judge, me in that sort of environment and 2) I still hold some reservations, and therefore judgment, that such abandon is not true faith but just antics. Either way, I am sitting in judgment of others and of myself. Where does this prejudice come from, and who am I to judge? I think that the answer is that we are human. We base our decisions and our lives on our experiences and the world around us.
What we know and understand and are comfortable with becomes ‘right’, and anything else shifts to ‘wrong’. That which is uncomfortable or unknown is harder to face or deal with: so we shy away from it. It becomes easy to judge at that point, because from a simplistic view, what we know as ‘right’ makes us ‘righteous’. That is a very nice spot to live in. When we are righteous, we are justified in our judgment or condemnation of that which we find ‘wrong’, and anything that affects our righteous position makes us a victim – again, a very powerful vantage point. So what do we do?
I don’t have the answers to this dilemma. I think it is just important to recognize that it exists. As I am branching out and trying new things, I am now more conscious of my preconceived notions and my judgments. At the very least, I am trying to shelve my initial fears or reactions and just live. It is not an easy lesson and probably one that I will have to continually learn over and over again. However, just because something is different or is outside my comfort zone, it in no way means it is bad or wrong.
The Professional Development Team