“Judge nothing, you will be happy. Forgive everything, you will be happier. Love everything, you will be happiest.” ~Sri Chinmoy
Are you judgmental? Not many people would be aware if they were, let alone admit to being so, but it's so easy to form an opinion about a person or situation without knowing all the facts.
What if the conclusions people spring to could really hurt someone? I like to think there are very few people who would actively want to upset others. Has someone passed judgment on you? What can you do if you feel misunderstood?
I want to share with you an unpleasant situation I was in recently, which has had a great impact upon my personal growth.
A few years ago in my thirties, I was in a car accident that caused me some spinal damage and exacerbated a pre-existing pelvic condition, subsequently leaving me initially in a wheelchair.
Currently, I am at a stage where I can now stand unaided and potter around a bit, but I still rely on a wheelchair or crutches for more than short periods of standing or walking.
One evening my partner surprised me with theatre tickets. I hadn't been getting out much—outings now need to be meticulously planned—so I was really excited.
We were lucky enough to be able to park in the disabled bays right outside the venue (I am registered disabled and have a badge). We sat in the car and discussed whether I should take my crutches inside, as I was quite anxious about blocking the aisles. We decided that with his support I would manage the few steps inside without them.
The first upset of the evening was getting out of the car. A man queuing for a space behind wound down his car window and shouted that we should be ashamed of ourselves for parking there. We clearly didn't “look” disabled and we literally “made him sick.” Hmmm.
This wasn't the first time something like this had happened. I have a hidden disability, and unless I am in a wheelchair or using an aid, I look perfectly “normal” and am (relatively) young.
I tried to concentrate on the show for the first half, but the evening had been ruined for me by then. In the interval I needed the bathroom. The female bathrooms are down two flights of stairs (no elevator), which I couldn't manage, so I went into the disabled bathroom on the ground floor.
When I came out, there was a queue of old ladies.
The first lady in the queue took one look at me and declared to her friend in a loud voice “young people are so lazy nowadays.” She looked at me and said “there's nothing wrong with your legs,” and rapped me across my ankles with her walking stick! I went home in tears.
This evening affected me emotionally for weeks.
Although I shouldn't need to justify myself to others, I would have been happy to answer genuine questions about my health instead of being met with accusations and aggression, but after much reflection I realized that forgiveness was the only way to move forward.
The points below really helped me to come to terms with how judgmental people can be.
1. The only person who can know the absolute truth about you is you.
People can and will have opinions, but never start to doubt yourself. Have absolute faith in who you are and don't let another's “idea” of you become your reality.
2. Ultimately, the opinion that really matters is yours.
If somebody doesn't agree with what you are doing or how you are behaving, don't feel pressured into changing. Have the courage of your convictions, even when others disagree or don't understand.
3. People can't “make” you feel anything.
I felt ashamed after being judged so harshly. I felt my body had failed me, putting me in that situation, and shame soon spiraled into self-loathing. I recognize now that these are feelings I had underlying anyway, and the situation just bought them to the surface. I know now we can choose how we want to feel and I choose to be happy.
4. Someone else’s judgment will be far more important to you.
It is so easy to dwell on things, but putting negative energy into running a scenario over and over in your mind is detrimental to your health. Although I found their remarks about me hurtful for weeks afterward, I doubt if the old lady or the man above ever gave me a second thought. Focus your energy on the positive things.
5. We don’t need to try to read people’s minds.
If we do not have complete trust in our actions, it can be easy to sense disapproval from others that may not even be there and then unnecessarily alter our actions accordingly. If you want an honest opinion, ask. Clear communication is far easier than second-guessing.
6. Forgiveness sets you free.
I am an honest person, and having my integrity brought into question momentarily resulted in anger and bitterness. Harboring this would ultimately have had absolutely no effect on anybody else but me. By forgiving, I have freed myself from this situation. Learn to accept an apology even if, especially if, it's not actually offered.
7. Compassion changes everything.
People with limited vision and steadfast opinions will have a harder life than me. I send them love. Everyone deserves kindness. Always.
I hope you never find yourself being unfairly judged, or indeed forming an opinion of your own without all the facts, but if you do I hope my story can help you.
Photo by Arry_B