“Do not be the judge of people; do not make assumptions about others. A person is destroyed by holding judgments about others.” – Gautama Buddha
We all face (and, let’s be honest, dish out) judgment every day. What matters is not the judgment itself, although we can often learn something from it. What matters is how we react to it. If we let it get under our skin without cultivating any lesson from it, we lose. We don’t generate any luck by feeling insulted. For the record, we also do not generate any luck by judging others.
On my 27th birthday, my guests asked me how I feel about the past chapter of my life. I said that I don’t know how to value my 26th year because I feel I have not done enough to help others. They stopped listening halfway through my sentence and, with eyes rolling, snapped back the retort sarcastically: “Oh! You got married and bought your first house at 26! What do you have to show for it?”
I dropped the conversation although I felt the knife blade pierce a little deeper than usual, because I had just shared a deeply personal thought.
I had said… “I feel I have not done enough to help others.”
What they heard was: “She is ungrateful because she wants more than all of the things the universe gave her.”
At first, this reaction ignited an indignation in me. I complained to my husband: “I worked very hard to build my life. I made many sacrifices, including giving up on living near my family. I earned my life through my choices and I was not complaining about it. I am very grateful for my life. I only said that I want to help others! How can they judge me for everything I have, including my good will? I never say such things to them!”
I spent the evening of my 27th birthday in tears.
“Do these people know anything about what you have done to help others this year?” he asked.
“No,” I said, “remember: when you do a good deed with your right hand, your left hand shouldn’t even know that you’ve done it!”
“And do any of these people know what we went through for this house?”
“Has any one of them attempted the risks you’ve taken in making the arguably insane decisions you’ve made this year?”
“No. Actually, the ones who have don’t say things like that to me.”
“Do they think it was easy?”
“Unfortunately, it seems so.”
“Will anyone’s opinion change who you are? Would you do it any differently?”
“Sometimes, if it’s valid. But it is not valid in this case.”
I then remembered something my grandmother used to say that translates with difficulty into English, but I will attempt it: “Better a reputation of good wealth (luck) than a reputation of poverty (bad luck).” Simply put, even in the hardest of times, it is better to be misunderstood as fortunate, than to be pitied. The family my grandmother raised keeps their pain, struggles, and misfortunes under the radar for this reason; they prefer to keep their problems private, even if it means that everyone else believes they have silver spoons in their mouths. Why? Because what we hear about ourselves often, in one way or another, becomes something we repeat to ourselves. Ultimately, this manifests in us. If people feel sorry for us, we feel sorry for ourselves, and we attract more misfortune. There is no benefit in that.
I realized that my grandmother’s advice would be to forgive the judgment, and to simply make more of an effort to help others in the coming year. She would not seek to be understood, she would seek inner strength instead. That’s what made her one storm of a woman.
And you, what is the judgment you face that hurts you most? Why does it hurt? What is the truth in it, and what is the misunderstanding? What lessons can you derive from it, and what messages do you need to let go of?
Rumi wrote: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.” There are a lot more people in the world today than when Rumi was alive. The world is also more connected, and social media is the breeding ground for wide-scale judgment. His advice was to find a safe space and share it with people who are uninterested in participating in judging the world. Do you have a space like that? Do you have friends like that?
I didn’t, but I’m working on it. If you don’t, I invite you to work on it with me.
And remember… we design our own luck!