One of the things about the spiritual journey is that each time you peel off a layer of the onion, and each time you think you've nailed a particular lesson, you just end up discovering new layers and lessons to learn.
Judgment is something I've been working on for a while. Or perhaps I should say non-judgment of others. Fact is, every time you look at or see another a person, you make a judgment about them. Oh, that's my *good* friend, Ken." "That's a *tall* woman." "Oh, he's got *great* hair." All of those are judgments. True non-judgment is being of neutral mind about all things good or bad.
I don't think there will be very many of us that will choose to go so far down the path that we stop quantifying others altogether. That's monk-level non-judgment. But what most of us need help with is the everyday judgments of what is right and wrong about the things other people say, believe, want and do. That's where I feel I've made good progress.
But I still catch myself making those judgments or making judgy comments from time to time. The hard part, really, is not just to stop saying those things, but to also stop thinking those things. Of course, one leads to another, but I do notice judgy thoughts seeping in from time to time. Far less than I used to, but they're still there. And that led me to a realization.
While I'm far less judgmental, what I'm really far MORE of is accepting. In other words, I still might make that judgment—"what an ass he was for doing that"—but I'm less likely to mete out any "punishment" or take on any stress over it. So if, say, someone screws me over on something, I might judge them as an asshole, but then accept the situation for what it is and move on. What that does for me is it disconnects me from the toxic rehashing of the situation and the desire for karma to visit upon them. I'm far more able to lift things up to the universe and trust, though I admit, from time to time, I do get stuck on something.
There are two essential truths critical to moving past judgment and toward acceptance. The first is that everyone has their own path to walk and what they do on their path is none of our beeswax. We don't even know what's right for our own path half the time. We have no business sticking our nose into the paths of others. So if they have had multiple affairs, if they own an arsenal or if they've been to jail, it's none of our business. Not ours to judge. It's part of their journey here and we're not in charge of their journey. We have laws that keep order within society and, within those laws, live and let live. Nobody says you have to invite them into your home. I'm just saying tend to your own crap and let others tend to theirs. And if you're judging others, then simply put, you still have your own stuff to work on. Because the person who has healed enough to be in a position to judge wouldn't judge.
The second truth is that people who create drama, tell lies, cheat or otherwise do things where they knowingly hurt others—as well as those who do crap unconsciously to hurt others—they're doing it because of who they are and not because of anything having anything to do with you. Regardless of what it looks like. Regardless of what they tell you. It's about who they are, not about you. And it usually comes from a place of deep anger and hurt within them. It's because of things they can't face, not things they're trying to make you face.
Which isn't to say the crappy thing they've done isn't hurtful. But because it's about them and not you, then you get to *choose* how to respond to it. It has no power over you. Only you have power over you. So you can look at it as an opportunity to learn something about yourself, rather than an opportunity to hurt. If you want to. When you feel hurt, it's just the universe showing you where you still need to heal. So again, instead of focusing on the other person, focus on your own stuff.
If you tell yourself often enough that "it's not my path, so it's not my business", you'll find yourself judging less. And I'm not saying if you see someone about to jump off a bridge, you just leave them to their path. This is about judgment. You wouldn't judge the person for wanting to jump off a bridge. And so you might be able to approach them and start a compassionate conversation, rather than one that starts with, "hey, asshole, don't jump!"
And if you remind yourself often enough that the other person's asshattery comes from a place of pain and anger within themself, then you can have compassion toward them. Because you understand pain and anger. And while you might have the tools to deal with anger and pain without hurting others, this person does not. And that's worthy of compassion and acceptance. You understand them and you accept the situation as it is because you've felt the same way before and, however you dealt with it, you probably haven't dealt with it perfectly every time around. And, besides it's not about you anyway. So all "the asshat" is guilty of is something you've been guilty of in the past. And you can accept it for what it is.
So while non-judgement may be the path, acceptance is one of the nuances of that path and can be a deceptive mile marker along the way. For some time I saw my acceptance of a situation to be the same as not judging it, and it's not. And so the plot thickens.
The clarity between layers of the onion is fabulous and a great indicator of how far you've come. But it's not the destination. And you can only hang out there for so long before you also see how much further you have to go. And so you enter a new ring of the onion, not knowing for sure where you'll come out. But knowing for sure that, no matter where you come out, you'll never quite reach the end.