E M P O W E R E D C H A N G E
When dealing with change, it is obvious that it can be very helpful to know what it is we want in order to facilitate change that is empowering and impactful. (See Etain Article #3, "What Do You Really Want?") But just as it is more important to recognize the qualities and values that we cherish and that precipitate our desires, so may it be with our judgments. Perhaps, just as our "wants" can serve as signposts to guide us in the direction of creating a life that is a reflection of that which we truly value, so might our judgments, if we view them not as moral truths but as their own kind of signpost on the journey, showing us in a very real way the specific qualities that are missing, neglected, unrecognized, or being ignored in our lives.
Could it be that our judgments actually arise from a place other than righteousness? When we can begin to ask ourselves how many of our judgments of other people's choices and decisions actually stem from our own dissatisfactions and frustrations with our own lives and choices, we might see that our judgments actually come from that voice within that knows and recognizes when we are not living in a manner that is true to our purpose.
While I was gathering my thoughts and ideas for this article, I read a story in a magazine about a woman (I'll call her Sue) who was constantly deriding one of her co-workers, seeing him as "lazy" and "irresponsible." This man (I'll call him Joe), one of her peers, actually did most of his work from his home officeperfectly acceptable in the particular field they worked in. Though Joe was perceived as a professional and accomplished man by most others, Sue was very critical of what she considered to be his sloppy habits and careless work ethic. She bitterly complained about him to anyone who would listen and spent a great deal of time feeling upset about Joe and his lack of industry.
It wasn't until Sue's conversation with the article's author that she began to see her "judgment" of Joe for what it really wasenvy. It turned out that Sue herself had a desire to do more of her work at home, but she had been raised to believe that going out and putting in the requisite minimum 40 hours per week defined the desired work ethic. Anything less was irresponsible and smacked of laziness and lack of ambition. When she saw that her "judgment" of Joe had little to do with true moral umbrage and more to do with thwarted desire, she was able to let go of her judgment and begin to see the possibility and advantage for herself of working, at least part-time, from her own home. She began to rearrange her schedule and now works at home 3 afternoons a week.
Even when our judgments don't come from direct envy of another's personal choices, there may still be a shadow of jealousy involved. Recent articles on homelessness have appeared in our local newspaper and sparked a conversation with a dear friend, who has always been one of the most kind and generous people I know. She was explaining to me her reasons for no longer giving to the "causes" and organizations that she used to supportincluding those that provide programs for the homeless. "It's frustrating," she told me, "to keep giving, and giving, and giving, and still the problem persists. People take the money, but they don't use it the way they should."
I heard the word "should" and wondered what she meant.
"For instance," she said, "there was a story of a homeless woman and her young children in today's newspaper. She gets a lot of help from a lot of places but admitted that, once in a while, she takes the money that is meant for her family and uses it to get a manicure." My friend's next statement spoke volumes: "I can't even afford to get a manicureand I work!"
Conversations about morality, righteousness, and the reality of survival aside, I believe that my friend's real resentment rose from her feeling of deprivation. She is a loyal, hard-working employee who is often too busy and too tired to indulge in such things as manicures, massages, or facials. At this point, she believes she is powerless to live her life the way she would like and so she is incredibly resentful of those who seem to have that facility. The fact that they do it at what she sees as her expense is particularly irritating to her.
If my friend could see her judgment as less of a reflection of a moral standard that is not being met, but instead as a call to pamper, nurture, and spoil herself just a little, she could perhaps also see her way to once again experiencing herself as the compassionate, giving person she truly is and desires to express.
Money choices seem to evoke strong feelings and judgments. One more example: In earlier articles, I have alluded to a serious health challenge that arose when I was in San Francisco. During my lengthy recuperation, cards and envelopes of money, gifts, and loving get-well wishes began to flow to me unbidden. I was touched and overwhelmed to be the recipient of such generosity, which allowed me the "luxury" of a full and unrushed return to vibrant health.
A few months after my return to Florida, I was having lunch with a number of friends and the subject of my San Francisco journey came up. One of my friends, a very dear man, told me of his "struggle" with his decision not to send me money when so many others were doing so. It seems that he had a belief that I had not managed my life well up to this point, or I wouldn't have found myself in the position I was in. And so he decided not to send me any money.
"I never expected you or anyone else to send money," I told him. "People just did that on their own. But why did you have to struggle with your decision?"
"Because," he told me, "I really wanted to send you the money."In reality, his judgment of my choices deprived me of nothingI live my life as I choose regardless of the judgments of othersbut it deprived him of an opportunity to experience himself as the generous, kind, compassionate man that he is.
So, perhaps there is a better way to relate to our judgments, rather than as moral imperatives. Our judgments can be powerful guides, not for others, but for our own enlightenment and self-knowledge. What we have called judgments, then, would be better defined by our use of them rather than by the simple fact of their existence, and in this way would actually cease being judgments.
As long as we make our choices based on judgments of perceived right or wrong, whether these are our own perceptions or those of others, we will never truly live a life of freedom and empowered change. Empowered choice is never about what "should" be and involves no judgment of choices made; however it must come with an acceptance of the consequences of our choices, whatever they may be. This is personal responsibility.
How might we use our judgments to facilitate the choices that we make?
I believe it is most important to recognize and acknowledge our judgments, and to see them as opportunities for a deeper understanding of self rather than as strict moral guidelines. If we are open and honest with ourselves, we would most likely begin to see that many of our judgments actually spring from that place of inner knowing and self-knowledge, growing out of our lack of integrity with our own true purpose. When we can begin to get in touch with that, we can initiate choices that enlarge our sphere of opportunity and experiencewe get "out of the box."
ACTION: Listen to your conversationswith yourself and with othersand really pay attention to your judgments, particularly those judgments of other's choices that you feel very strongly about. Write them down. Include any feelings and emotions that you might be experiencing at the time.
After you have been doing this for a period of time, notice whether there are any patterns. In what area of your life might you see the same kinds of patterns occurring? In what area of your life are you feeling particularly judgmental? Are you also feeling frustrated or disillusioned in this area? Do you see a correlation between your judgments and your frustration?
Collaging (discussed in the ACTION section of Article #2, "What's Stopping You?") can be very helpful when dealing with the issues that hold a great deal of emotional sway and influence over our lives. When used for this purpose, collages are the visual expression of our personal, individual world-views. There is something very powerful in the visualization of the normally vaporous and volatile qualities of the psychological/emotional realm. Visualization can take away some of the mystique and can therefore lend clarity to the issue at hand.
It might be helpful to make a collage of your judgments. I suggest using only visual images rather than words in your collages. In Napoleon Hill's Keys to Positive Thinking, the author states that "Your mind's image-making ability takes place at a far older, deeper level than its language-making. Human language-making developed relatively recently. Pictures and images have a direct, basic, elemental appeal to your emotions and feelings, while words have only an indirect appeal. Words must first be translated into pictures before the deepest levels of your mind will accept them and be changed by them."
Allow every aspect of the process of collagingfrom the gathering of pictures to the placement and gluing of the finished productto speak to you and reveal your deepest wisdom. Above all, be open and receptive to new ideas and ways of thinking and being. Be willing to step out of your box.
Writer and Editor
© Linda Maree 2001