written by Mick Ukleja

Drop the Whip!

5 Benefits of Being Less Judgmental of Yourself and Others

Don't JudgeThe crack of a bullwhip is one of the most attention-getting sounds we can hear.  It’s mostly associated with pain and punishment by both receiver and inflictor.  The crack! is the result of the light piece of leather at the end going faster than the speed of sound.  The sharp crack! is the breaking of the sound barrier.

What does this have to do with forgiveness and becoming less judgmental?  Nothing travels faster and cracks louder than an unforgiving or judgmental outlook.  It can cut through emotions – sometimes leaving deep scars.  The whips come in a variety of colors and sizes – judging, injustice collecting, gossip, and piling on.

Judging — sets itself up as a moral arbiter, creating an environment where conflict is both natural and ongoing.

Injustice Collecting – is circular in its reasoning.  It makes its judgment and now selectively seeks evidence to prove its case –- all the while ignoring any “good” that might soften the indictment.

Gossip – is a way to get others to “drink the cool aide.”

Piling On – spreads the workload around and becomes a group’s expression of self-righteousness.

The reality is that harboring a wrong is counterproductive.  What has happened has already happened.  So letting it dominate the rest of our lives blocks personal growth, happiness and progress.

Being judgmental is like renting too much space to disappointment — Mick Ukleja 

This is not to deny betrayal, hurts and disappointments.  It’s to acknowledge them.  It’s to be a watcher of our thoughts.  When we pay attention to our thoughts, like an outside observer, we view them more objectively and come to a better description of their meaning and impact.  Rarely does a judgmental person think they are judgmental of themselves or others unless they step back and observe their thinking.  With a growing awareness, the negative thinking will lessen.

Forgiveness and being judgmental are connected.  Kathleen Lawler-Row, psychology professor at East Carolina University, says that when you forgive someone, “you never experience life the same way again.  You are more flexible, less black-and-white in your expectations of how others will or should be.” 

Becoming less judgmental does not involve rationalizing or condoning wrongs.  It’s not developing instantaneous amnesia.  It does mean having the ability to walk a more positive and productive path.

Here are 5 benefits of being less judgmental with yourself and others.

1.  Being less judgmental strengthens your healthIt lowers blood pressure, your heart rate, and mood swings – like anxiety, anger and depression.  Thinking about a wrong arouses our fight-or-flight system – a faster heart beat, higher blood pressure, heightened hurt, increased anger, weakening of the nervous system.  In several studies becoming less judgmental improved participant’s overall sense of comfort.

2.  Being less judgmental heightens your gratitude and kindness.  It’s a practical matter.  It involves your self-esteem, your personal worth, and your relationship to the larger world. This bends your focus to be more grateful and kind.  Doing the opposite can lead to living with rage, fear and hurt, rather than feeling how good it is to be alive, or how beautiful the day is.  After all – how many more days will I be alive to appreciate this moment?

3.  Being less judgmental promotes accountability.  This seems counterintuitive.  Studies have shown that forgiveness leads to increased personal responsibility more than piling on the guilt.  People are more willing to receive feedback.  There is less of a defensive posture and more openness to advice.

4.  Being less judgmental increases self-control.  The more judgmental we are, the less self-control we have.  Being judgmental actually promotes depression, which in turn lowers our motivation – and thus – lowers our willpower, resolve, drive, and determination.

5.  Being less judgmental enhances creativity.  The less critical we are, the more creative we become.  In one study of a large group of undergraduate students, it was reported that self-judgmental students displayed lower levels of creative traits.  When they were put in a group with higher levels of self-compassion, their creativity was significantly raised.

No matter how much we think we shouldn’t judge, we are so conditioned to do so that without increasing our self-awareness, it’s almost automatic.

Here’s an exercise.  Let go of at least one judgment today. Start by converting it to an opinion or preference.  Stop defending it.  If you like how it feels, let go of one more.  You will see a tangible increase in your sense of happiness and wellbeing. Your health, creativity and self-control will also improve.

Share your thoughts or experience with us.

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03.25.2014

2 responses to “Drop the Whip!”

  1. Kim Lindsey says:

    Mick,
    Once again you nailed this one!!!! So many of these points can be applied to our everyday thinking. I’m all for having an opinion, but allowing others to have theirs as well. Guess it comes from a few miles traveled on the road of life! God bless your day!

  2. Mick says:

    Thanks,and right on, Kim. A distinction should be made between a judgment, and an assessment or difference of opinion, both of which are essential in the process of making decisions. A judgmental attitude – toward self or others – closes the conversation and extinguishes learning.

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