Non-judgment, Presence, and Place Sharing

I spend a lot of time judging.  Although I may not consciously realize it, I am constantly deciding (judging)  whether I like the weather, the food I’m eating, or the shoes worn by the woman who just walked by.  The fact that I’m not alone in this predicament makes me think that it is worthy of our discussion, especially as the implications of our constant judging affect our ability to relate with one another.

The point that I am constantly evaluating everything was driven home to me when I read a suggestion by author Deepak Chopra to practice non-judgment.  Chopra advised, in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, to start the day with this statement:   “Today, I shall judge nothing that occurs” (17).  It’s his assertion that by cultivating a mind that doesn’t constantly evaluate everything as good or bad, it creates a certain silence or peace in the mind which promotes love and creativity.  But how does the idea of non-judgment translate in normal, everyday life, where we are sometimes required to evaluate others in a particular area?

I concluded that the idea of non-judgment was similar to the idea of place sharing, in that we put ourselves in the position of another and respond to them as we would like to be treated.  To me, this sounds very much like the Golden Rule:  “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matt 7:12, NLT).  A verse found earlier in this same chapter of Matthew speaks about how “the standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged” (7:2. NLT). 

My mother-in-law recently passed away from Alzheimer’s disease after suffering with it for several years.  In the last few years of her life, we could not converse with her normally, so our visits to the nursing home became a strain.  How do you communicate your presence and support to someone who is plainly off in another world?

Our first inclination was to get caught up in judgment, reasoning that since she could not communicate normally, she was also incapable of recognizing our presence and concern.  Her condition made it unpleasant for us to visit (more judgment).  We could not fix or cure her situation by our visits, so why bother?

As I sat by her bedside one day, I happened to remember when I was awaiting surgery nearly sixteen years ago, feeling very dopey due to the preliminary anesthetic, and my mother was sitting with me.  “Do you want me to go?” she asked, seeing how I could barely keep my eyes open.

“Just talk to me,” I said, wanting to feel the comfort of her presence. So she told me about what she had been doing, whom she had talked to in the grocery store, whom she planned to visit.  Although nothing she told me was of any consequence, her presence with me took my mind off the surgery and comforted me.

As I sat by my mother-in-law’s bed remembering this, I decided that I would begin handling my weekly visits to see her in the same way, as if she were drugged but still in need of a familiar voice and comforting presence.  So I began to recount to her everything I had been doing that day, from the loads of laundry to cleaning the bathroom.  That was the extent of our visits, yet by not judging her situation and my response to it, I was able to share the burden of her situation, at least a little, and perhaps give her some comfort.

While my mother-in-law’s situation was one where non-judgment, presence, and place sharing were the best (maybe the only) options, I think these concepts have important roles to play in all our interactions, even those that call for us to thoughtfully evaluate another’s actions.  We spend a lot of time making judgments, many of which are unhelpful and unnecessary.  The times when we are required to make a judgment can be tempered or made more effective by remembering the Golden Rule, and treating those we must evaluate with kindness and compassion, understanding their situation and sharing that place, even if it’s only by our presence.

            ~by Nan Kuhlman

4 comments so far

  1. Jeannine on

    Love this post, Nan. Sometimes I catch myself making a judgement about someone’s actions or situations, and I realise with a thud that I have no true basis for making that judgement. I don’t know the details (nor do I need to), don’t know that person’s history and what has led them to where they are, and I have no idea what it’s like to walk in that person’s shoes Oh yeah, and I’m not a mind-reader! I also feel that there are aspects of myself that I judge as well – more and more I am trying to be conscious of that and to ask myself whose voice in my head am I allowing in to do the judging. Once I identify it, I am usually able to throw it out.

    I also agree that the time you spent with your mother-in-law was far from wasted. On some level, she very likely knew you were there for her. And even if not, I am sure she does now and someday you will hear from her how much it meant to her. I’m not terribly close to my mother-in-law and I don’t feel that she understands me at all – though I understand why – we’ve had such different backgrounds. I have often felt that it wasn’t worth my time to try to relate to her better – but your story shows me that it is.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Jeannine,

      I think you make a good point that we need to “police” our minds a little, recognizing when we are judging inappropriately or inaccurately, and throwing the inaccurate thoughts out. Although my mother-in-law was great, her personality was very different from mine which presented a few challenges (mostly for her, having to put up with me)! The onset of Alzheimer’s disease created a distance between us, but at the same time, it gave me a greater compassion, too. What I hoped to communicate through this post was that as long as I was judging her (her disease, her inability to care for herself) as good or bad (mostly bad), I couldn’t relate with her and communicate much-needed love and support. When we stop judging and accept what is as it is, we can see ways to be more loving and effective in our relationships.

      Nan

  2. Jerome Ellard on

    Great big subject! I think you are taking a more balanced approach than Chopra’s suggestion. I see that you assent to the sometime necessity of making a decision (or judgement). Life is, after all, a series of decisions, isn’t it? Another thing: the word “judgement” or “judging” has become a pejorative in a society that is more and more defensive about it’s decisions, but still, “you shall know them by their fruits”. Maybe we can be more clear by remembering that we should not condemn others or even ourselves, but that being carefully discerning is not wrong. How to do that? The only One who is truly “carefully discerning” but not condemning is the Holy Spirit. Only as we yield to the life of the Spirit, can our “judgements” be just. Christ in us, the (only!) hope of glory! Lord, help us to be your sheep who hear your voice and follow you, our shepherd.

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Jerome,

      I guess I see Chopra’s advice as a suggestion to stop viewing life’s circumstances as good or bad, and instead, simply accepting them as what is. I do think that part of the way we “train” ourselves to be able to do this is by being more cognizant of our tendency to evaluate even the most stupid, inconsequential stuff. I don’t see it as a recommendation to stop making decisions or taking action when necessary. Although the topic of my post was rather broad, I hoped to illustrate that as long as we’re caught up in judging a person or situation as “bad,” we’re less likely to come up with effective solutions or effective communication to help the relationship. By remembering the Golden Rule and trying to see a situation from another’s perspective, we enhance our positive frame of mind along with our relationships. As always, any effective truth is the product of the Holy Spirit, resulting from Christ in us, as you said.

      Nan


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: