I watched a video on a friend’s Facebook news feed today.
It was a neurosurgeon who had been a troubled, angry and verging on delinquent child, until he met a woman who understood his pain and changed his life.
It inspired me to think about how, as a society, we are judgemental of our fellow humans. What judgements do we make? Why do we make them? How can we change our thought processes to understand other people’s behaviour and show compassion?
Why do we judge?
We all judge in some way. I’m guilty of it, despite regularly practising mindfulness. It’s a human trait to observe others and try to determine whether we are morally better than them. But, it’s important that we stop and think about how often we do this and what impact it may be having on others.
Humans are innately judgemental. It is programmed into our reflexive brain.
We will automatically internally judge someone when we meet them, watch them, hear them or read about them.
How do we stop it though?
We don’t have to judge. No one person’s struggles should outweigh another’s. Nobody’s fight should ever be belittled by someone else.
By understanding the reason for someone’s behaviour, being patient and giving them time, you may be able to change someone’s life in a positive way.
Think about these scenarios;
The colleague who arrives at work late and grumpy, is judged by their colleagues as having poor timekeeping and not a team player. They’re late because their ASD child clings to them every morning going into school, they’re grumpy because they don’t get much sleep due to their child’s anxieties and they’re sure that everyone at work is judging them for their lateness so they avoid everyone, in fear of being rejected or harassed.
The child who hangs around outside all the time in your street or estate, wears a hoodie with the hood up all the time, scruffy and mouths off at people who question them. They’re labelled as a troublemaker locally. They live in an abusive household. They’ve never seen kindness or heard kind words. The reason they hang around outside? Because they are too scared to go home, because they will either witness a beating or be beaten themselves.
The parent at the school gate who stands back and avoids contact with other parents. They’re not ignorant, they don’t feel above everyone else. They’ve just been through a divorce which lost them their ‘friends’ they thought they had. They’re painfully shy, anxious and have been upset and let down by so called friends, so they isolate themselves to prevent being hurt again.
These are people who get judged incorrectly. Yes, they seem rude and unapproachable, but just one gentle bit of understanding and compassion could help turn their lives around.
I have found the qualities of empathy, compassion, patience and understanding through practising mindfulness. Even so, I’m not infallible. My patience can be limited if the person I want to help has no drive to help themselves. It’s frustrating, sometimes infuriating, that someone doesn’t seem to want to get themselves out of their difficult situation.
In fact, judgement, personality attributions and discrimination is described by one writer on the Voices of Youth as ‘the cancer of our society‘. But there is a cure for this cancer. It is possible to heal our society.
The scientific impact of judgement and compassion.
Exploring Your Mind (‘an online magazine focusing on psychology, neuroscience, personal development, culture, and well-being.’ run by psychology experts and researchers) states ‘the damage that judgement causes is something that we must think about and reflect on. We must look inside ourselves, look at ourselves, and stop investing so much time in seeing what others do, how they do it, and why.’
If you can show compassion to others, that are not your loved ones, be very happy as you have nurtured an important skill. There are two schools of thought on the subject, that humans are instinctively compassionate, and that humans are not born with compassion but learn it But if you have nurtured that skill, you also have potentially extended and uplifted your life, if you practice it regularly;
- Motivate action.
- Make you happier and healthier.
- Boost your immune response.
- Develop an empathic neural response.
- Increase empathy.
- Develop your helpfulness.
- Help you feel less afraid of suffering.
- Help you feel less stressed
Not just compassion for others, but also self-compassion, loving yourself, gives these benefits plus more. Having regard for your own well-being and happiness is essential towards living an uplifting and gainful life.
Dr Tara Cousineau’s 2018 book called ‘The Kindness Cure’ describes compassion as ‘specifically directed at another’s heartache and pain. The very word, derived from Latin, means “to suffer together.”‘
Compassion and Different Faiths.
What the Christianity teaches us about judgement and compassion.
The Bibles teaches us not to judge. In Leviticus 19:15;
‘do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly.’
In Proverbs 31:9;
‘Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.’
In Matthew 7:1-2
‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’
In Ephesians 4:32;
‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.’
And in Colossians 3:12;
‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’
What Buddhism teaches us about compassion.
Compassion is an essential part of the Buddhism faith and teachings.
Buddha taught that to realise enlightenment, a person must develop two qualities: wisdom and compassion. Wisdom (or prajna) is defined as ‘”consciousness,” “discernment,” or “insight”‘ rather than intelligence. Compassion (or karuna) is defined as an active sympathy or a willingness to bear the pain of others.
‘In practice, prajna gives rise to karuna, and karuna gives rise to prajna. Truly, you can’t have one without the other. They are a means to realizing enlightenment, and in themselves, they are also enlightenment itself manifested.’ (ThoughtCo.)
In Buddhist teaching and practice, true compassion means having no expectation of a reward or a ‘thank you’ attached to the kindness shown or the good deed carried out. ‘To expect a reward is to maintain the idea of a separate self and a separate other, which is contrary to the Buddhist goal.’ (ThoughtCo.)
A study carried out in 2004 by Jennifer Goetz determines that ‘Compassion requires prajna or transcendental wisdom – an ability to see past shallow appearances and see true suffering and need. For this reason, compassion may involve giving someone what they really need, not what they want. In addition compassion is an open gift, it is generosity without demand.’ This can often be misconstrued by non-Buddhists to appear cruel and ruthless.
What Islam teaches us about compassion.
Compassion is as central to the Islamic faith as it is in Christianity and Buddhism.
There are four words in the Qur’an which are often stressed and repeated; rahmah, ihsan ‘adl, and hikmah (compassion, benevolence, justice, and wisdom).
‘A Muslim begins everything by reciting Bi Ism-i- Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim (i.e. begin in the name of Allah Who is Compassionate and Merciful). Thus a Muslim is supposed to invoke Allah the Compassionate and Merciful at every step. He does not invoke Allah’s other names (Allah has 99 names according to the Islamic belief) as he invokes Him as Merciful and Compassionate. […] Anyone who is cruel and has no sensitivity towards sufferings of others cannot be Prophet’s true follower in any sense.’ (Asghar Ali Engineer, 2018)
What Hinduism teaches us about compassion.
Compassion (or Karu) in Hinduism, means having kindness, feeling others’ pain and suffering and avoiding hurting or harming others, (even if they have committed ‘evil’ deeds) for one’s own ends. A similar sentiment to Christianity, Buddhism and Islam.
However, the Hindu Dharma lays emphasis on compassion being directed towards animals and plants as they believe they also have souls.
Hindu teachings contain many stories of compassion towards all life. They contain some inspirational and insightful thoughts and ideas. You can read them here.
Make a positive difference to someone.
Whether you are a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, from a different faith, or have no faith at all, you can make a difference to someone. You could be their positive influence. Your understanding, patience, time and compassion could be the positive driving force in their life!
Never underestimate the power of kindness.
If you want to learn more about understanding your own judgements, how to enhance your compassion abilities or to learn more about mindfulness, check out the Headspace app. It’s free to sign up to and you could learn a whole new way to keep yourself both physically and mentally healthy.
Who could you make a positive difference to?