Listen up, Warriors, I’ve got a challenge for you. Take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’ve been a little (or a lot) more judgmental lately. Be honest. If you have been, you’re not alone. These days, there are so many people who are very quick to judge others for their politics, their beliefs, or their appearance. Judgment seems to be spreading as rapidly as the coronavirus.
But judgment can backfire.
“Judgment traps you within the limitations of your comparisons. It inhibits freedom.” That’s a quote from Willie Stargell that I really love, and it’s so true. Being judgmental tends to make you feel angry, hopeless, and helpless. It’s time to change that.
The Brain Science Behind Why We Judge Others
Before I get to the challenge, let me share some of the reasons why we judge others, and I’ll also share some of my own struggles in the judgment department. Yep, I’ve been guilty of it too.
We all judge. It’s one of the ways we make sense of the world around us. As soon as you ask a question—“Why is this happening?” or “Why did they do that?”—your brain is driven to find an answer to that question. The easiest and fastest answer is to blame someone or something. I’ll admit, my brain used to take the easy way out.
I went through a time in my youth when I was really miserable, and I was convinced that everyone was judging me by how I looked. In turn, I started judging myself—and others—in the same way. It really messed up my value system and made me think that my appearance was what gave me value, and it was how I sized up other people too.
Then I got cancer.
That really threw me for a loop. My appearance was suddenly so unimportant. I needed to stay alive. I realized I needed help to change my judgmental ways, and I needed to learn the difference between judgment and discernment.
I love the way Glenda Green explains it: “The practice of discernment is part of higher consciousness. Discernment is not just a step from judgment, in life’s curriculum, it’s the opposite of judgment. Through judgment, a man reveals what he needs to confront and learn. Through discernment, one reveals what he has mastered.”
To help me shift from being judgmental to having discernment, I took a course from Byron Katie, the author of Loving What Is. In the course, she talked about how to use judgment as a tool rather than to create negativity and anger. And she helps make it happen by challenging your judgmental thoughts with 4 questions.
I ended up doing a 9-day course on the 4 questions, and I’ve since helped many other people learn how to use them to put the brakes on our judgy ways. Here’s how I helped one woman who wrote to me with the following judgmental belief.
“Christians are dangerous.”
Question #1. Is that true?
Yes, they’ve been dangerous to me.
Question #2. Is it absolutely true that all Christians are dangerous?
Well, no, I can’t know that EVERY Christian is dangerous.
Question #3. How do you feel when you have that thought? And how do you treat yourself and others when you have that thought?
I feel angry, stuck, judged, judgmental, attacked, threatened, alienated, shamed, and powerless. And I’m critical, judgmental, defensive, and distant, and I demonize them.
Question #4. Who would you be without the thought?
I would be unafraid, peaceful, curious, and hopeful. It’s possible that I would be seen and heard, and I would be open to discussion.
The turnaround. In Katie’s teachings, this is where you turn your original thought around in 3 ways—to the opposite, to yourself, and to others—and come up with examples that support these turnarounds.
Turnaround to the opposite:
Christians aren’t dangerous.
For example, she remembered a time when a group of Christians brought food to her family and they didn’t hurt her.
Turnaround to yourself:
I am dangerous.
After sitting with this thought for a while, she realized that feeling angry, stuck, and alienated could actually make her dangerous.
Turnaround to others:
It’s dangerous to believe that all Christians are dangerous.
This thought made her see how harmful her thinking was.
After completing this exercise, this woman was able to see that her harsh judgment of Christians was not only unfair, but it was also hurting her and making her feel terrible.
Take the 4-Question Challenge
Now, here’s your challenge. I want you to take this same exercise and replace the word “Christians” with the name of any group of people you tend to judge—whether it’s a political party, a religion, a country, or something else. Then go through the 4 questions and the turnarounds to see if you can get past your tendency to be judgmental about that group. Because if you’re stuck in judgment, it hurts you more than anyone, and it prevents you from being part of productive dialogue and a positive solution.
So take the 4-Question Challenge, then tell me about it. Share on my social media pages how this simple yet powerful exercise helped push you to a new way of thinking. Because we could all benefit from a little less judgment right now and a lot more understanding.
If you’d like more science-backed exercises that boost brain function, enhance moods, and calm stress, check out The Brain Warrior’s Way course at Amen University. If you’d like 21% off your order, just enter TANA21 at checkout. Stay brain healthy!