“What will people think?”
“What will the neighbours say?”
Like it or like it not, we live in a judgemental world. We are programmed to make decisions based on evidence presented to us. When we lived in caves, this was vital. Was that rustle in the grass just the wind or was it a sabre tooth tiger ready to pounce? Was the armed stranger coming towards you with bared teeth smiling or snarling?
We carry on this instant decision-making into our modern world, where it is no longer a matter of life or death. In some ways, my profession depends on it. I teach my clients how to present themselves visually so people will make the “right” judgement about them. It is not about dressing to impress, however, but how to express themselves with authenticity and joy. It allows them to make an accurate impression.
Then there is our judgement on people’s behaviour. We condemn those who steal, who cheat, who lie, and we do it because those actions harm the society we live in. Going back to those cavemen days, our tribe was our safety; to live in isolation was a death sentence. The wellbeing of the tribe was fundamental.
But then that judgement starts to get toxic. What do we think when we pass that house with the overgrown garden and peeling paint on the door? What about the family whose daughter has “gone off the rails” and the morbidly obese man in the supermarket who has loaded his trolley with baked goods and chocolate bars?
The phrase, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” always seems to me to be harsh and scary. Far better is a sermon I once heard: “Judge not – because it’s not your job, and you haven’t got all the information.” We can never know the all the circumstances that have led to the overgrown garden; the daughter’s rebellious behaviour; or why that man is eating himself to death.
And, what about our own fear of judgement?
I have recently returned to work after a break of over a month. In that time, the garden has become overgrown and the bindwind is running rampant. My clients normally enter my studio through the garden but – well – it’s physically impossible right now.
I was so worried about it. I try to make the physical environment for my clients clean, uncluttered and welcoming. What would they think about the encroaching jungle outside?
As it happened, they didn’t even notice; other than to exclaim about the abundance of roses. My relief was overwhelming.
I think we could relax around the whole area of judgement. Yes, there are times we might need to act to protect the vulnerable, and that requires a decision; but the rest of the time, compassion is easier than judgement.
And, when we fear the judgment of others, it’s useful to remember that most people are far too worried about their own business and insecurities to be bothered with yours.
A Moodscope member.