Have you ever walked away from an exchange to think “I wish I hadn’t reacted that way”? Being present and suspending judgments can be difficult. Amita Patel weighs in on practicing mindful judgment.
I once went on a date with an incredibly sexy man who said “I’m half shallow and half superficial.” He stole food off my plate and commented on the caloric value of my meal. Before our food arrived, he asked whether I was ready to settle down and have kids. And despite common sense, I soon fell for him and had a loving, albeit crazy relationship.
Not surprisingly, that relationship is over.
I look back and wonder, were there warning signs? Should I have judged him from that first date?
Contrary to popular belief, judging others when you meet them is less about the qualities you perceive they have or don’t have. Rather, it’s about your ability to be present to what’s your shit, what’s their shit and what you’re willing to do about it.
Whether they’re overweight, have an annoying laugh or rock sideburns shaped like lightning bolts, healthy judgment boils down to a five-step process:
So, you meet someone on a dating site, message each other a few times, and decide to meet. Upon meeting, all your date wants to talk about is his band. Soon, he is no longer a passionate musician, but an oblivious narcissist.
In this moment, you can choose to witness whether this is his issue or your issue. Perhaps his lack of interest in you is rubbing up on an old wound where you didn’t feel valued or a past experience where you felt rejected. Witnessing isn’t about seeing the person’s flaws, it’s about seeing what’s actually causing you to be upset. It’s about looking at the meaning you’re assigning to his behavior.
You know you’re irate. And you’re able to discern whether it’s something in the other person that’s a deal-breaker for you or your limiting beliefs and insecurities. Either way, sit with it. Tolerate the discomfort of not reacting impulsively. Emotional resilience is the ability to acknowledge your feelings without acting on them.
Acceptance means that you accept him for who he is and where he is. More than that, it means you accept that you do not have the power to change him. It is not the same as complacence and does not mean you should put up with unhealthy behavior.
We all have unconscious beliefs about who we are, how others should act, and the way the world works. These beliefs shape each action or non-action we decide to take. When someone does something that rubs us the wrong way, we can either choose to adapt to the situation or struggle against it.
In our earlier example, the choice to put up with his self-involvement is largely guided by our unconscious beliefs about how he should act. Assuming you’ve cleared out your baggage on the issue, the choice of whether you should continue to date the person is based on two things:
- Knowledge of your deal-breakers. It’s as straightforward as it sounds. What can and can’t you put up with?
- Your ability to focus on form and content. Often, we are guided by what things should look like on the outside. This goes beyond looks to include all the external trappings of what we’re taught to evaluate others on (job, income, prestige, etc.) Equally important is the content that makes up one’s personality (interests, sense of humor, quirks, etc.) Focusing on form alone is like looking at a frame without noticing the painting inside it.
5. Compromise or Cut Ties.
Now that you’ve decided what you can or can’t accept and you know the motivation behind your decision, you’re ready to either:
- Compromise and forge ahead.
- Cut ties, learn your lesson, and move forward.
It’s important to note that compromise is not the same as settling. In fact, it’s an awareness that neither of you is perfect. It’s choosing to see the good rather than focusing on the bad.
Ultimately, whatever you decide, you are what you attract. We bring in people who mirror and confirm where we are in our journey and our beliefs about ourselves. So rather than focus on whether you’re correct in your judgment of him, focus on what you’re learning about yourself in the process. After all, relationships of any kind are spiritual assignments designed to teach us the lessons we need in order to evolve.
To answer the initial question, should I have judged the food-stealing, calorie-counting, seemingly-superficial man?
The answer is no.
I loved him exactly as he was.
And more than that, I loved those lessons that helped me to become the person I am today.
[image: via Geoffrey Dudgeon on flickr]