Non-Judgement In Relationships
This series of blog posts focuses on some of my reflections on the nine foundational attitudes of mindfulness and how they relate to interpersonal relationships. This week is an exploration of non-judgement.
As human beings we judge all the time. However, when we feel judged by others it can feel extremely painful and shaming.
Non-judgement in relationships can sometimes be as simple as an acknowledgement of difference; that we all have different habits and idiosyncrasies and just because our way of being makes sense to us, doesn’t make it the best way. When we make a life choice based on our ethical beliefs and values it can be easy to judge others who don’t share those values. I recall when I first became vegetarian, I instantly became quite judgemental of those around me who still ate meat. This led to a sense of defensiveness on the part of my carnivorous friends. This did nothing to help animals, but simply created a divide between myself and my friends. In time I began to let go of my judgement and realised that my friends were often far more ethical in other areas in life and if I let go of my judgement long enough I was able to notice some of my own blind spots. And fortunately my non-vegetarian friends were always open to coming over for some of my vegetarian and vegan cooking. These days I am not exclusively vegetarian so I am glad that I was able to let go of my judgement of others before being accused of being a hypocrite!
When we live alone it is easy to pretend to be easy-going. This changes when we live with others. This might be partners, family, housemates or even a friend who has kindly offered their spare room for a few weeks. Without realising, we all have our own way of doing everyday tasks such as cleaning the bathroom or stacking the dishwasher. It is easy to become baffled and frustrated when our co-habitee washes the dishes with the ‘wrong’ side of the sponge, or uses the ‘wrong’ cleaning products. Some of us like to clean everything thoroughly when we have the time, while others like to regularly make a ‘good enough’ job but never get into those stubborn, grimy corners. Ultimately we are always going to make a judgement, but can we choose to let it go? Or, even better, can we choose to see the funny side, because in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?
Apologies and forgiveness
For me it is about knowing what’s important and what is a deal-breaker. I can choose not to judge myself for making a judgement and I can choose not to express every thought in my head if it isn’t particularly useful. It is more important to me to connect with the people that I live with, and share space with, either at home or at work, and come to an understanding about why we all do the things that we do and have our particular preferences. This is easier said than done and occasionally I will make an unhelpful comment to a colleague or friend about something that is none of my business. And here the only recourse quite often is to apologise (ouch) and forgive myself (ouch).
Where this becomes a mindfulness practice is in the fact that, while most of us judge most of the time, we often don’t realise that we are doing it. It becomes automatic and habitual. By pausing and listening to ourselves, through noticing felt sensations in the body and areas of tension and tightness, we are able to pick up on those subtle judgements of others before we react. As always, mindfulness and awareness gives us the space to make a choice. It may not stop the judging but it may loosen the grip it has over us and prevent it getting in the way of our connecting with those around us.
The next post of the series will look at gratitude.