Being judgmental has gotten a bad name and for good reasons. Our whole world has experienced the horror wrought by people who felt superior and righteous in destroying other people they thought were inferior or even non-human. Also, in our personal lives, we’ve experienced the damage done by arrogant, righteous spouses, parents, relatives and others who always knew best and felt entitled to taunt, tease, harass, bully and abuse us or to cast us out.
However, it’s a mistake to use these examples of righteous people with poor judgment as proof that:
- The process of making judgments is bad. It’s not. It’s necessary.
- We should accept all perspectives and ways of living in the world as equal or as equally valid. They’re not.
But that’s all abstract. The real questions are whether we need to be more or less judgmental and which of our judgments are worth keeping and how. Take the quick quiz.
Before you take the quick quiz, see “Being Judgmental” as having four parts:
- Discerning; making judgments, estimating what the consequences of some action will be, deciding what we like and what we don’t like.
- Deciding which ways of behaving are acceptable in our personal space.
- Making these boundaries in our personal lives stick.
- Getting righteous, indignant or angry when people do what we think is wrong or dumb, or when they don’t do what we think is right or good or best.
Understanding this process, we can now take the quick quiz to help us decide whether you’re being bullied and whether to be more or less judgmental and in which areas of our lives:
- Do you ignore early warning signs and get stuck in situations that are painful? Do you distrust your own judgment?
- Do other people often tell you what’s right or what you should do? Do you need to act more on your own judgment and listen less to other people?
- Do you feel like other people or one other person runs your life or decides what you can or cannot do? Do you accept harassment and bullying?
- Does someone else have more control over your time, money, friends or activities? Do you try to understand, compromise or give in but they don’t? Are you anxious, stressed or afraid of what they might do?
- Do you need to get angry before you act? Do you often feel guilty or ashamed afterward?
- Do people ignore, laugh, argue or avoid what you want when you insist that they act in certain ways in your personal space? ?
- Do people trample over your boundaries? Do they get away with not changing? Do you let them stay in your life? Do they wear you down? Is life an endless struggle?
If you answered “yes” to most of these questions – if you feel bossed and controlled, if you get taken advantage of, if you’re the one who almost always gives in or tries to make peace, if you rarely get your way, if you have to justify everything you do or ask permission before you can do anything – then you’re not protecting yourself enough, you’re not being judgmental enough and you’re not acting based on what you know in your heart-of-hearts to be true.
If you answered “yes,” to most of these questions, you need to act firmly, courageously, strongly and skillfully on your own judgments. You need to build your confidence and self-esteem. You need to take power over your own actions, whether the other person likes it or not.
Many people ask, “But how do I know if I’m right or fair or normal in what I want? How can I demand what I want when I’m not sure I deserve it or if I might be selfish?”
That way of thinking leads us no where. That way of thinking puts us under the control of someone else who thinks they know better than we do. There’s no chance for happiness down that path – only submission.
The path that has a chance of yielding happiness and joy and fulfillment is the path of being discerning, of having more and better judgments, and of making our judgments stick in our lives.
Getting angry, righteous and indignant are motivation strategies. We typically generate those feelings to get ourselves angry enough to act. The problem with that method of motivation is contained in “The Emotional Motivation Cycle” (See “Bullies Below the Radar: How to Wise Up, Stand Up and Stay Up). This method usually isn’t effective long-term.
Instead, a better method is shown in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks.” Trust the signals from our guts when they’re just at the level of irritation or frustration, and use the effective five-step process. When we act based on that level of emotion, we’ll make better plans and carry them out more effectively.
That doesn’t tell us how to accomplish what we need; that doesn’t tell us how to get free from oppression we’ve previously accepted, but that tells us that we must. All plans and tactics must be designed to fit us and our specific situation. That’s why we need expert coaching and, maybe, legal advice. But now we know the direction we must set in our lives.