Pass judgement with curiosity and compassion

Have you ever tried not to pass judgement on something or someone? Not passing judgement seems a very noble, often spiritual, goal but from my own experience I can tell you that it’s very difficult. It’s in our human nature to form an opinion, and judge, on almost everything. It’s a catch 22: Either we judge, and feel bad about it, or we desperately try not to judge and feel trapped, stressed, as we cannot express our feelings.

As mentioned above, most people have an opinion about everything. Whether it’s about sports, business or politics, we think we know it all and pass judgement all the time; without knowing the relevant background or facts. One of our neighbours has a new car and we react in envy, thinking that there is no way he can pay for it. If someone is late for work we think he is a slacker. Someone is giving us feedback and we think he or she is jealous and doesn’t like us. We get fired and blame our boss, the economy or the government without knowing exactly why.

The funny thing is that if someone is passing judgement on us we view this as a bad habit, but once someone else is concerned we pass judgement all the time. Have you ever wondered why this is and why our own opinion is more important than that of others, why we apply double standards?

I guess there is a thin line between passing judgement and having your own opinion. This is how I keep them apart: When people pass judgement they usually don’t know all the facts, they presume they know. An honest opinion is based on curiosity, wanting to know how things work, wanting to know why people react the way they do. We can be wrong, but at least we made the effort to check for facts.

In one of my recent articles, stop blaming others and take control over your life, I said that once you stop blaming others you will make a major step in your personal development. When you work on your judgement towards others you will make another personal development step as well. The idea here is that you do not only think about yourself but make a conscious effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You make the effort to find out why people do and say things, why they make certain decisions. It is a step from unconscious thinking, to conscious thinking.

The idea here is not to stop passing judgement on others completely, or never have an opinion about everything. The idea is to transform it, take passing judgement to the next level. Add curiosity and compassion to your judgement and you will get something very powerful. You will still have your own opinion, but it will be based on facts, not presumptions.

Here is what I do. Whenever I catch myself passing judgement, I think to myself: Is my opinion based on facts? Could it be that someone else will look at the same situation completely different then I do? If I was standing in his or her shoes, would I do the same? Do they know all the facts? Do I? Maybe we’re both right, but see it from a different angle.

In almost all occasions I found that the situation was quite different from what I originally thought and that my first thought, my judgement has been transformed into a much better understanding of the situation. That’s the power of passing judgement with curiosity and compassion.

4 comments… add one
  • Benjamin Feb 10, 2010 @ 3:59

    Hey Patrick,

    Our judgment does seem to be nearly constant.

    One thing I’ve been working on for a while is letting go of the ‘snap’ judgment instinct (it seems very deeply ingrained).

    As you say, I want more facts. Even after I have the facts, I’m avoiding ‘judgment’ to the best of my ability… I don’t want to label things, people, places, etc. as ‘good’ or ‘bad’… I just want to move toward what works for me and seems to support love and life.

    I would love to be able to lovingly move through life free of judgment.

    It’s a beautiful ideal… I’ll tell you when I get there… 🙂

    Thanks for the insightful post!

    keep smiling,


  • Mike King Feb 11, 2010 @ 7:56

    Judgment has its place and I think you’ve nailed it in saying to pass judgment with compassion. If we use it as a means to express and act on compassion we feel for others, it is a useful tool. We must be prepared to avoid prejudice and snap judgments as you put them. These are hurtful and rarely accurate. Great article!

  • Matt Nov 17, 2010 @ 14:37

    This is so true! That is why Compassion is considered the highest level of enlightenment. Because to have it, is to be a true master of mind or perhaps a true creator in time (if your into Quantum physics)..Though it doesn’t come easy. You literally have to sacrifice every attachment you have to become free. So the true question is, are you willing to sacrifice what you consider to be yourself, to become thee? You can only show compassion for others, when you have compassion for yourself. This is Gods true test for his creation, before we are called home. All the great teachings tell the same story. I just wish we would all break free from these destructive spells, the judgments from hell. Because,,, they do not serve us well.

    Yes, I too, thank you for posting your article!

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