When is Judgement of Others Self-Judgement?


Hi.I have heard this saying so many times but fail to decipher it."What we see in others is a reflection of our own self" How come..If I see a corrupt official asking for bribe and disapprove of his action or an eternally cunning man or rudr woman trying to be cunning or rude, and feel angry, doesn’t mean I am myself rude, cunning or corrupt. On the contrary I dislike these attributes and so identify them as wrong instead of overlooking it and walking away..So how is the statement true?

—S, india


Dear Friend,

You have asked an excellent question. The question could be: “When is judging others a judgement upon oneself?” Yes, sometimes a person’s judgment of another is a projection of the same shortcoming in oneself. But, as you say, seeing a “corrupt official” or misbehavior of another person isn’t necessarily one’s own specific shortcoming.

Instead: the self-judgement of which we speak lies in the emotions that arise in you as a result of perceiving the behavior of another person. Let me explain. First, there IS room for “self-righteous” anger. Seeing injustice in the world, especially up close, can trigger in a good person, feelings of anger related to the injustice itself. When specific and courageous action in correcting the injustice can be taken, this is, or can be, a proper response. Certainly Gandhi exhibited such responses to the many injustices he struggled against. He gave his life for just causes.

But even here, if the injustice is far removed from your personal life and beyond your own ability (or willingness) to act in a helpful way, then all that is gained is that you’ve lost of your peace of mind. Your anger, in other words, results in ZERO useful benefit to anyone, least of all yourself. You must then ask yourself, “What good is this to me?” Learn to be calm and even-minded about things that are not your dharma to deal with. The world is full of injustices and mistakes and evil and suffering. You are not the cause of human suffering or evil; nor will you solve everyone’s shortcomings and the world’s problems. The best you can do is, as Gandhi is often quoted, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be the best you can be. That is your primary duty in life: to find goodness and to find the Source of goodness: God.

In addition, it is one thing to observe that another person has a fault: perhaps, he is not honest. That might be simply a fact. It is yet another thing to be upset or judgmental against him. You see, “judgement” is DISLIKE. Christians have a saying: “Hate the sin; love the sinner.”

In summary:

1. Sometimes my criticism of another person reveals that in me, even if hidden, is a past or latent tendency toward the same shortcoming. Maybe you were once, in a past life, a corrupt or dishonest official? This is the first question you must ask yourself.

2. If not, is your “anger” channeled in some useful way to help correct the corruption? If so, and you stand up for what is right, can you do so without hating the corrupt official?

3. If there’s is nothing you can do to help, then you must “let it go” and express non-attachment. If you cannot do this, then there is a lesson here for you to learn. It may not be that YOU are corrupt; it may be that you have an anger issue; it may be that in your past (life), you experienced corruption. It maybe that you have the habit of bothering about other people or issues that aren’t correctly your concern. Maybe you need simply to work on yourself and stop getting bothered by things that don’t concern you or that you can’t fix. The answer to these questions (“Why”) is NOT as important as the effort to re-gain your peace of mind; your equanimity. Pray for others: those harming and those harmed.

Deepen your meditation; prayers (bhakti yoga); practice selfless service (karma yoga).

Blessings to you!
Nayaswami Hriman