We judge others because that is our habit. Judgement is part of thinking and acting in the world. We continually have to make choices about what to do and we rely on our judgement to make those choices. Our judgement informs our choices so we cannot live with out judgement. If we see a lion, our survival depends our our judgement that tells us we are facing a dangerous predator. We do the same with other people. We pass judgements on them about whether they are friendly or ferocious. It is natural to pass judgements on people. However, our habit takes this natural tendency and turns it back on us. We end up using our judgements to prop up our egos.
Judging others and ourselves is how we reinforce our egos by identifying ways we are the same and different and better better worse than each other. Those comparisons give us a solid identity, which is more comfortable than wondering what we are. Even if that identity makes us feel horrible about ourselves at least we are sure we exist.
How we judge others is how we judge ourselves. We create or adopt a set of values and then judge how we measure up to those values. It is an insidious habit because even passing positive judgements implies the negative judgement. As we appreciate beauty, we fear ugliness. When we appreciate intelligence we fear stupidity. If we think we are better than some people, we fear we are worse than others. There is no end to the comparisons we can make.
If we find we are better than others, we falsely prop ourselves up. If we think we are worse than others we falsely put ourselves down. Eventually, when we find ourselves suffering, our judgements have turned on us. We can’t stop the habit, because we don’t see it as a problem with the judging, we only notice the results of the judgements.
If we notice our judgement habit, we can see what we are doing, become conscious of the habit and change it. If we can stop judging others and ourselves, we free ourselves from the trap of these judgements. Even if we can’t stop judging, by being aware of the dangers of habitual judging, we learn to doubt our judgements and reduce the power they have over us.
Now is a good time to practice compassion. If you are hurting a lot or a little, you can practice compassion for yourself. If somebody you love is hurting, you can practice compassion for them. If somebody you don’t like is hurting, you can challenge yourself to practice compassion for them. If you can imagine all the suffering in the world, you can practice compassion for the world. When you practice compassion for the world, you complete the circle and practice for yourself again.
If you are suffering right now, now is a good time to practice with your suffering. If you are not suffering right now, now is a good time to practice connecting with your wider perspective, your wisdom, that part of you that can see beyond suffering. Whenever you take time to practice compassion, you build your capacity and skill for practice. If you can think of your suffering as part of the world’s suffering you gain perspective on both. If you are hurting a lot, imagine that multiplied by all the people in the world going through similar or vastly different experiences of physical, mental and emotional pain. Your experience connects you and gives you insight into all of their experiences. As you imagine all those other people feeling just as you do, you can wish for them to find peace and happiness in their lives. That wish or hope will bring a touch of peace to your life. In that way practicing compassion for others becomes a compassionate action for yourself again completing the circle.
When you imagine the world’s suffering, it can be overwhelming. When you feel your own suffering it can be overwhelming. Remembering that it is time for compassion can help, now. When it seems like there is nothing you can do, focus on being right where you are and opening yourself to compassion. Notice that you would rather not suffer. Notice that you don’t want others to suffer. That is the essence of compassion and noticing is the beginning of helping. When you practice being open to compassion and practicing compassion you will see it everywhere but also notice when it is absent which helps too. When you notice the absence of compassion, compassion appears.
The time to practice is now, because it is always now. No matter how we feel, we all benefit from small and large acts of compassion. The world and you need compassion. Practice now.