The Judgmental Mind

I’ve been sitting with a passage from Richard Rohr’s Jesus and Buddha:Paths To Awakening. Rohr writes

All spiritual teachers tell us “Do Not Judge.” For those of us raised in a religious setting, this is very difficult. In a strange way, religion gave us all a Ph.D. in judgmentalism. It trained us very early in life to categorize, label, and critique. It told us all about worthiness and unworthiness. This judgmental mind told us what is right and wrong, who is gay or straight, and who is good or bad. This sort of mind never creates great people, because everybody has to fit into our way of thinking. At an early age our grid was complete. We had decided who fit in and who did not fit in. We fashioned our own little world.

Christianity that divides the world in this manner and eliminates all troublesome people and all ideas different from our way of thinking cannot be mature religion. It cannot see the multiple gifts of each moment, nor the dark side that coexists with it. This mind does not lead us to awareness, and above all, this mind will find it impossible to contemplate. To practice awareness means you live in a spirit of communion; your world becomes alive and very spacious, and not divided by mere mental labels.

Reading the passage prompted a couple of thoughts. First, part of the danger of creating “grids” the way Rohr describes is that we are not always all that good at categorizing. That is, our judgements and categories are often less about some absolute standards of “good” and “bad” than about our own proclivities. “Worthy” too easily becomes “in accord with my views” and “unworthy” becomes those who don not meet my subjective standrad.

Second, our tendency to “grid” often blocks us from seeing that, we all are something of a mixed bag. We all have our strenghts and weaknesses, our tendencies toward good and our tendencies toward the less-than-good. If we walk around with a judgmental mind, we can easily be blinded by our own “dark side.”

There is wisdom in the suggestion that we be hesitant to judge others.


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