How to stop being judgmental

Are we born judgmental beings, or at birth are we pure and pristine—trusting and open?

I often hear people talk about wanting to get back to the state they think they were born in, before they became judgmental and fearful. But did such a state exist?

My belief is that such an open, receptive, loving state didn’t exist in us when we were born, but it is something we can achieve before we die.

I recently watched a short segment on the 60-Minutes T.V. show, called The Baby Lab, and it presents fascinating research that demonstrates how we are born with certain biases and prejudices. One example they present is our tendency to critically judge those people who we perceive to be different from us. They show a 3-month-old baby preferring “others” who eat the same kind of cereal she eats and distancing herself from those who eat a different kind of cereal. (And this wasn’t true for just one baby, but for 87% of the babies tested).

The show presented several other examples, all demonstrating that we are hard-wired to be reactive when we perceive people to be different from us.

While recently discussing the 60-Minutes show with some friends, one woman shared with the rest of us a revealing story about her preference for chocolate ice cream and how she judged her soon-to-be daughter-in-law for preferring strawberry ice cream. The woman telling the story recognized this was silly, but she also had the courage to admit that this is part of her deep wiring—not her preference for chocolate ice cream, but her tendency to be judgmental. And those of us listening to her related to her story because we all recognized the times when we too judge other people for being even slightly different from us.

How does it help to recognize our own prejudices?

When we realize that all people have this strong, hard wired tendency to be reactive and judgmental, we are likely to develop more compassion for ourselves and others—as well as more humor. Compassion and humor are two characteristics of maturity. And as we develop these characteristics we become less judgmental.

We don’t have to deny our reactivity and we don’t have to give into it. Instead we can realize this is part of being human. And if we work on ourselves, continuing to mature, we become more secure in ourselves which allows us to be more curious about other people. If we learn to accept the ways that other people are different from us, maybe by time we die we’ll truly be pure and pristine—or at least we’ll be accepting of our humanity.


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