Why We So Automatically Leap to Judgment (you too)

19/02

It is just so easy to default to judgment in almost any human interaction. I say default, because that just seems to be true. Check in with yourself. Walking down a street how often do you notice the shape or size or clothing or so many other things about the other people on the sidewalk or driving by? Let me clarify that I am not saying that we judge them to be wrong, though that is most common. And not saying that judging others as right is somehow better. We judge constantly. Seems to be a default.

I wonder if this is a left over from the dinosaur days of flight or fight decision making with every other dinosaur they might meet. The first thing to do is make that very basic life saving decision. If I feel myself above such primitive thoughts, I am not paying attention. In the first moment, involuntarily, I judge. Maybe not flight of fight, but some sort of safety check and then, in jumps my opinion. I measure against some kind of self made up standard. That one is too fat, that one too thin, etc. I think it would benefit our species to get over the idea that judgment is for heathens and that holy, enlightened, modern people do not indulge. Poppycock. We are instinctual first, flight or fight is unavoidable, then moving into the realm of choices that are deliberately made. For that first heartbeat of time, we judge. This judgment arises before choice is available to us. Done.

This tells us how it is that we so readily judge, and also tells us to get over our august selves about it. It is in the next moment, the moment that choice becomes an option for us, that we can be evolved and mature and either move to options like acceptance and happy co-existence, or, to build that judgment idea into adversarial choices. Some people are bruts and bullies, period. But none of us has to be, once we enter the realm of choice. The option to choose comes hardly a moment after the judgment of the fear filled dinosaur brain stem that we all carry at the top of our spine.

So here it is. If we leap to judgment in the heat of the moment, normal. Waiting, just a second(s), is all that is needed. In that brief time, stay calm, as best as can offer a welcoming and safe demeanour, wait. In seconds the person who seemed so judgmental can easily, in my mind, transform into the most collegial and helpful person on the planet.

We instinctively jump to judgment first. After a very short time, if we just wait, stay still, allow ourselves to get past it, a moment later, ahhhh, the world then again includes choice. Super.

Why do we so automatically leap to judgment? Because our very survival as a species relied on that instinctual response in order to survive. It is not only OK, it is normal and just a part of the human experience. The thing is that we need to learn to let it pass, in us, in others, in order to get to that magic place we call the place of choice. That is where the real stuff happens. We just need to wait a moment.

Notice your own judgments.  They can be quite fun to watch as they go wooshing by tempting us to run away or to kill and eat the person in front of us. Noticing, in the moment, is the doorway to happiness.

Joseph Seiler MCC