A question came up over the weekend that set me to thinking deeply.
A young woman raised the question ‘It’s all very well to clear my guilt and self-judgment, but what if I HAVE behaved badly in this relationship? What if I could have done things better? What about taking responsibility for MY part in the breakdown of the friendship?”
It was a terrific question and it touches so deeply into the heart of our human experience that I want to explore it a little here.
She was referring, I believe, to two different responses which in English are often lumped together under the one word: judgment. However they feel very different, and I will use the words judgment and discernment to clarify the difference.
Equally when I reject a part of myself that I don’t like or don’t approve of, the results are just as destructive. As one woman said to me when describing her inner resistance to letting go of her judgment: “I’ve created a barbed wire fence inside. And I see that the barbs point in both directions.”
When I respond to something or someone in judgment it feels like a door closing in my chest. To feel it for yourself try this little exercise.
Spend a few minutes thinking about something that makes you feel open and loving – a little child, a favourite pet, even a beautiful landscape. Notice how relaxed and light you feel in your chest and around your heart.
Now think about something you did that you regret or are ashamed of. Is there a shift in your chest?
If you can feel a door shutting or a tightness in any way – then you are judging yourself. You have shut out a part of yourself – and that part will continue to hurt (and to play out in unexpected ways in your life) until allowed back into consciousness.
Because everything is joined, it doesn’t matter whether I am closing my heart to you or to part of me – both create division and pain. Both ultimately are less than the Highest Good for ourselves and for others.
In terms of energy, this form of judgment really does limit the amount of love and joy I can experience in my life.
That is why bitterness leads ultimately to sickness. Close your heart often enough in the course of a lifetime and you literally shut off the supply of life force in your system. You quite simply close down the body’s ability to renew itself and heal.
The good news is that this process can be reversed. When we decide to let go, to forgive, to open the door again, then life force automatically rushes back in to fill the part that was closed. That is why every spiritual tradition stresses the need to forgive others and forgive ourselves.
But that is not the same as saying that anything goes. There are choices that are destructive and cause pain for ourselves and others. How are we to respond to these? How are we to decide on a course of action?
If judgment is not the best way to navigate our way through the world, how then are we to make decisions?
And I’m discerning that this blog is quite long enough already – and it’s time for a cup of tea!