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Contemplating Being Non-judgmental

by Michael Ketterhagen

“Violence has its roots in prejudice and the habit of creating labels.”

--Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

This third contemplation of our movement to a deeper spirituality that also leads us to peace and harmony is being non-judgmental.

This non-violent guideline is an extension of being tolerant and is an extreme challenge because almost every human being evaluates the behavior and performance of other humans. We even evaluate the weather—“It’s too hot!” “It’s too cold.” “Why don’t we get more rain?” Every opinion about another, even about ourselves, is a judgement. Every statement that has within it a label implicating goodness or badness is a judgment.

We evaluate (judge) every relationship and every person who loves us and whom we love. Being non-judgmental means being totally accepting of another’s words, behavior and lifestyle—even their cultural, political, religious, emotional differences.

I became aware of this recently when someone told me that the person she was with said that he loved her, but in her opinion could never show it. “He really doesn’t know how to love others,” she told me. She was labeling him “unloving.”

Contemplating on the meaning of love, I recalled a book by Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages, and Christianity’s belief that we are made in the image and likeness of God. According to Chapman, people express their love in five ways: through speaking words of affirmation, through spending quality time with the other, by giving/receiving gifts, through acts of selfless service and through physical touching. Each one of us has a preference or two in expressing our love for another. But when someone doesn’t choose the way that we prefer, we think they don’t love us. The other may just be expressing love differently.

If Christianity is correct and if God is love, as is stated in John’s gospel, then all human beings express love. It is our core nature to love. The Yoga Tradition agrees with this evaluation of our nature when it says that we are divine, infinite and perfect (DIPs) at our core. Therefore, each human is an expressor of love in one or more of those five ways.

Each of us often defines the meaning of each love expression differently. For example, one person might think giving “constructive criticism” is affirming the potential of another. However, the person receiving the “criticism” might judge that as “not at all helpful” as “even hurtful”.

Or someone may bring home a paycheck or buy little things for the house and view those actions as service to the family or the marriage. They might call that loving their spouse or their family. However, the family or spouse might think (judge) that that behavior is just doing one’s duty, and, therefore, doesn’t come to the level of “true love.”

Why would I judge a loved one in that way? Because I think that the other person is not expressing love in the way I think (judge) they should express love.

Being non-judgmental is a challenging practice. It takes deep contemplation and continued dedication to the realization that we are all doing our best to fulfill our nature—Divine, Infinite and Perfect—even when that method of fulfillment contradicts everything in which we believe.

All humans long to love others and long to be accepted and loved for the way they interact with others. This is a challenging contemplative practice.


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