The Power of Nonjudgement

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3

As the day went on, though, I started liking it less. I thought ‘This discussion isn’t as interesting as the one we were having before. I’m not having such a good time anymore. Maybe it’s time to wrap this up.’

Then Jason, a single father who still dates occasionally, told a story of going dancing with a girlfriend and not liking the “hippie dancing” people were doing.  “I could have been having a perfectly good time,” he said, “but all this lame dancing bored me. I had to wait for them to put the James Brown back on before I started having fun.”

In that moment, I realized that I had been doing in the meeting exactly what Jason had done at the dance. Evaluating, judging, instead of just observing and experiencing.  As soon as I let go of the judgment and started just listening, I started enjoying myself again. I also noticed warmer feeling towards the other guys.

That’s an insignificant case of making myself miserable, but some recent trials have shown me that nonjudgment has far greater power to heal. As I wrote in my last post, Aisha and I have been struggling with our subtenants Pete and Frances, who suddenly stopped paying rent on their room, rent we felt we needed to pay our own rent to the property owner.

They weren’t nice about it either. When we asked what was up with the money, Pete would reply by insulting us and threatening us with various legal actions. He called us liars and accused us of greed and of not caring about them. “You don’t care if we wind up living in our car or under a bridge.”

Pete is a powerfully built young man who can seem pretty scary when he gets aggressive, although he’s never done anything physical to us or to Frances. At other times, he would promise to pay at some unspecified time, but never did.

Finally, we took them to court.  On the negotiation day, Aisha was taking care of our granddaughter and couldn’t be there. To my surprise, the judge allowed them two more rent-free months on top of the four they have already taken. I could have rejected the deal, but that would have meant a jury trial with a lot of legal expenses and increased hostility. Remember, we were living under the same roof with them. Both the judge and my lawyer said I should take the deal, because “They’re desperate, and desperate people do desperate things,” and I gave in.

I felt terrible about it, felt I had lost. I was thinking, ‘This is wrong; this is unfair.  They are being rewarded for borderline criminal behavior.’

In other words, I was making all kinds of judgments. They may have been true or false; that doesn’t matter. My judgments weren’t helping anybody; they were just hurting me. When I applied Krishnamurti’s advice to my situation, 80% of the pain dropped away. I stopped blaming the others involved; I stopped blaming myself. I stopped thinking, ‘This is terrible,’ even though well-meaning family and friends kept saying how terrible it was.

Instead, I started thinking it would be a drag living with P and F for 50 more days, but not torture. We could handle it. And we did. It was hard; it took over our lives and cost us time, money and stress. But they’re gone now and the apartment has never seemed so much like home.

I also noticed that without the judgments, I could see the situation more clearly. I could see the judge’s point of view. He wasn’t focused on what was right or just in some abstract sense.  His job is to help everyone get through the mess and get on with their lives, with the least possible court time and expense, and he thought this the best solution. He was looking at a bigger picture, trying to smooth the road ahead. Maybe condemning us to 60 more days with the grown-up teenage alcoholics wasn’t fair, but the alternatives may have been worse.

I have learned much from this experience, but not judging may be the most important. It’s not just that judging makes you miserable. It interferes with your observation. That’s because nonjudgmental observation is with the whole self. The observing self is quiet; it can see a whole picture, different viewpoints. Evaluation is with the ego, distorted by prejudice and previous experiences, focusing on one element and excluding others, quick to react rather than wait for the whole story to be revealed. Evaluation does not bring peace.

Not judging yourself

Perhaps the hardest thing to observe without evaluating is yourself.  I have rarely found myself observing me at all. I go straight to judging. After our court date, I kept thinking: “I failed. I didn’t fight hard enough.” I worried that my friends and Aisha would think less of me or be angry with me.

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Power of Nonjudgement

  1. Roger Eaton says:

    I followed the link and found Fania Davis quoting Dr M.L. King about combining the militant and the moderate. This “restorative justice” movement seems really smart — the application of a relatively minor intervention just at the critical point to send things in a better direction.

  2. kris says:

    i love Krishnamurti’s quote. Thanks for sharing.

  3. If ever “restorative justice” or the concept thereof, was needed it is now in the horrific tit-for-tat killings of three Israeli youth and the revenge burning to death of an Arabic boy in the “Palestinian Territories” this last week. While not a religious person, I certainly feel I am a moral one, and generally reasonable enough. I know the saying,
    “Vengenance is mine sayeth The Lord, and I believe it to be a very reasonable and profound maxim. However, I don’t feel comforted, and I want to throw them to the mob, especially the ones who burned that very small 16-year-old boy! HELP!!!

  4. Angelee says:

    This dovetails so well with something a friend said to me earlier this week when I was stewing about some concern or another. She simply said, “What if it weren’t a problem?” I saw how I was making it a problem by viewing it as such, but that actually nothing terrible was happening. Thank you again David for your insights and beautiful written word.

  5. Will Fudeman says:

    Yes, many of us judge ourselves and others too harshly, causing unnecessary suffering. Still, if we choose to not use that form of judgment that is discernment– as in– can I really trust this person enough to let him/her move in to my home?– we might regret just allowing ourselves to watch what happens.

    The ideal balance is a sort of dance– being aware of our judgmental feelings as they arise– taking a look at where they are coming from– making choices that are informed by our feelings, even if we might sometimes be a bit ‘judgmental’.

    For most of us, it’s not easy to drop our judgments and just experience what is. Meditative practices are helpful. And, our minds have developed habits over the decades of our lives. Here we go again, making judgments. Most of us are not going to be able to be like Krishnamurti, unless we’ve been meditating for decades, and practicing non-attachment and non-judgment.

    • David Spero RN says:

      Will, I agree that it’s not possible to totally stop judgment in this world. But we can cut it down a lot, can’t we? I also note that positive judgments are as potentially damaging as negative ones. If you judge that some person is trustworthy enough to allow into your home, what are you basing that on? It might be better to suspend judgement and let them wait. That’s certainly what I found out with Pete.

      • Matu Feliciano says:

        Let them wait…..I did, they did more damage to themselves. I don’t have to say much at all. When a person is out of sync with reality and is harmful to others, get out of the way. It becomes flight or fight. As you said, let them wait.
        That way you are not compromised in any form.

  6. Tammy says:

    A great lesson for us all–for me anyway. I lost out on a promotion to a younger, less experiencer coworker–who my colleagues selected over me! I was livid. I hated all of them. I made my work environment toxic because I was so mad, even though I like the woman who is now my supervisor. I had to work on forgiving each of them and forgiving myself for not making the cut. I knew I was the only one suffering at my own hands. This is something I had to work through. Anyone who can jump right to the non-judging must be some higher being. As for me, I will never let up on yelling at Fox News, should I happen to hear it! Moral outrage can be important too 🙂


    There is always a personal cost to judging others, and I have found by personal experience that it is NEVER worth it. There’s no way around it- it is a law of the universe that bitterness and unforgiveness are the fruit of selfishness.

    But we might say, “But I am not a selfish person”…just the fact that we say, “It’s not fair- I demand justice” is indication that we operate from an egocentric perspective, “I win you lose” perspective.

    It has been said, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but bitterness rots the bones”; if we harbor bitterness, judgement and unforgiveness against someone, we will pay for it, and it is never worth it. I have seen this law affect people’s health- I can show you the patients who will progress well after surgery and the ones who will be stuck in the revolving door of disease, for example.

    Take the high road, suck it up, swallow our pride, extend peace, and watch healing in action- it is truly amazing.

  8. Mathias says:

    As someone close to this experience, it’s helpful for me to realize how judge mental I was not just of them, you, myself, the courts… to what end? Thanks as always for working and walking the path, leading the way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *