Human beings are judgment machines. We evaluate everything automatically. In order to understand and communicate with our world, we put labels on everything, good or bad. For example, when you look around Indy, you put labels on the things around you – a tall building, a short person, a light piece of paper, a heavy rock.
Those labels and judgments are done unconsciously and nearly instantly, and they are the means through which we find an understanding of what we see, hear, touch and feel.
However, we tend to put names and labels to people depending on our emotions at the time, the behavior of the other person, or a preconceived notion of what we expect of the other person. For example, you automatically make a judgment of a person the first time you see them. You notice how they are dressed, how they walk, and whether their eyebrows are too close together. You form a mental picture of who you think that person is before you even meet them. Before the first “hello” you have put a label on that person: rich, stuck-up, snooty, kind, loud. No matter what that label is, it is based on what you are feeling and not necessarily based on facts.
The problem with these labels is that they filter our perceptions, getting in the way of finding the correct information. When we judge people, we put them in a category by who we think they are, and stubbornly cling to those misconceptions. Afterwards, we found out that the person is not who we labeled them to be.
When you have a negative thought about someone, look inside yourself to see what’s going on. Why does that person bother you? Is it something that they are doing, or is it your own feelings? More often than not, it is our own thoughts and feelings that form those judgments of people. Once you recognize that your judgments are only about you, you can begin to let them go. You can then change those judgments to compassion. You realize that you don’t know the other person’s reality, and you don’t know how you are affecting them.
Making judgments about people is a habit that you learned when you were young. But like any habit, it can be changed. You can learn to let go of judgments and let compassion rule your thoughts.
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Photo credit: Brian Turner