I was a very judgmental person for a long time. Perhaps as early as elementary school, I established an incredibly high set of standards for all aspects of my life – as a student, as a friend, as a human being, as an athlete, as a writer, etc. – and I was always quite critical of myself when I failed to meet those standards, which, somewhat predictably and despite my best efforts, happened more often than not. I’m not entirely sure why I grew up that way. I suppose it was an inevitable by-product of my perfectionistic personality combined with a fair amount of Catholic guilt. But, whatever its roots, one thing is clear to me now: It was a very hurtful and unhealthy way to live.
To make matters worse, it wasn’t long before I began to hold others (e.g., friends, loved ones, siblings, classmates, co-workers, colleagues, teammates – even complete strangers) to those same, mostly unattainable, standards. Fortunately, most were unaware that they were being “judged” against what I perceived to be the “gold standard” for performance in whatever role they played in my life, but that certainly wasn’t always the case (http://tinyurl.com/csh79fd). In fact, there were many instances, where I wasn’t at all “bashful” about offering my assessment of others’ “performance” in relation to what I deemed to be “par for the course” – my course. More hurt – more unhealthiness.
Over time, however, I realized just how “flawed” I was, not in a negative way, in a human way. I also became privy to the “confessions” of friends who I held in very high regard, but who proved to be similarly human “in their thoughts and in their words, in what they had done and what they had failed to do” – and, for the first time in my life, I listened to their “sharings” from a place of understanding and empathy, rather than judgment. Ultimately, I came to embrace a simple, but important truth: All of us have weaknesses and, as hard as we may try and as well-intentioned as we may be, from time to time, we act on those weaknesses and fall short of the people we are capable of being.
I also discovered that remaining blind to that reality about ourselves, while simultaneously judging or, worse yet, openly criticizing others for engaging in the same or similar behaviors not only is hurtful and unhealthy for us and the object of our judgmental words and actions, it is not, in my humble opinion, what we were put on this planet to do. Stated otherwise, every day was never intended to be Judgment Day – at least not in our “pay grade.” I’m not suggesting there aren’t absolute truths, values or standards of behavior that all of us should aspire to and strive for – plainly there are. What I am suggesting is that it’s not our role, as fellow human beings, to sit in judgment when we or others falter in our efforts.
Instead, our role, as equally flawed human beings, is to be understanding of what it means to be human and imperfect, both in our dealings with ourselves and with others. It’s a role that, regrettably, I came to very late in life. Hopefully, this brief “testimony” will encourage you to get a head start. I promise – you’ll be glad you did.