John Lennon wrote about imagining a world with no possessions, countries or religions. I wonder if we can imagine a world without judgment.
It’s an axiom in Buddhism that “desire is the root of all suffering”. I think one way this plays out in our daily life is in self-judgment. One of the pillars of traditional parenting is judgment. We are given the “good girl/bad girl” paradigm almost from birth. Literally, parents will talk about having a “good baby” because he sleeps through the night and isn’t fussy. A three week old may not understand this cognitively, but I imagine long before he is verbal he will “get” that he’s being judged.
Parents have power over children, and their judgment can decide what a particular day is like for a child. The “good” child gets praise, love and rewards, while the “bad” child gets shunned, yelled at, and often punished. If I am 4, and I want my ice cream, I better behave in a way that my parents judge as “good”. For most of us, we then go into a school setting where everything we do, behaviourally or academically, is assessed and evaluated. It’s all about judgment.
Just like any other value, we internalize the belief that the things we do (and the ways that we feel) are either “right” or “wrong”, or “good” or “bad”, and we start being judgmental with ourselves.I am confronted daily with how incredibly pervasive judgment is in our daily lives. We are always comparing what we do to some subjective standard, and often criticizing ourselves because we feel we “didn’t do it right”. Our days can be filled with all the times when we feel we didn’t say, do or feel the “right thing”. In my opinion, this makes life really stressful, and makes us very unhappy.
As parents, we can look for opportunities to NOT judge, and to just be accepting and loving. This includes avoiding excessive praise, which is also inherently a judgment. None of this needs to be conceptualized as a “rule” – it’s just an idea. It’s hard to completely shift a paradigm in one generation, but if each generational cohort of parents judges a bit less and makes judgment less of a central piece of their parenting, maybe we can slowly start to imagine a world without judgment.
Where did this way of looking at the world come from? That will be the focus of next month’s newsletter!