When Jesus admonished his followers to not judge, lest you also be judged, I always assumed that was just about not judging people. The short version is, “Don’t call someone an idiot. That’s a judgment.” Of course, I would often then mutter to myself, “No, it’s just telling the truth. “ OK, maybe it was a little bit judgmental.”

For the person who is trying to be still and truly pay attention, I think there is more to Jesus’ statement. To judge a person, an event, a feeling, or a thought is to come to some conclusion that closes further consideration. He’s an idiot. That’s a bad thought. That was a wonderful experience. I shouldn’t have that feeling. All of those are judgments, the final word on the subject.

categoriesHaving passed that judgment, I can now put that person, event, or thought into a category. Putting it in a category saves me time when I next encounter that experience. I don’t have to reassess. But the category also limits. Once a person is an idiot, we are no longer open to other possibilities in that person. Once an experience is deemed horrible, we can no longer learn the lessons inherent in that experience. If I once again have a feeling I shouldn’t have, I will attempt to repress it (or at least feel guilty about it) and not discover what that feeling has to teach me.

In short, to evaluate, label, and categorize is to cut myself off from what I might discover about the person or event.

Each of us has lived long enough to have been betrayed, abandoned, and hurt by people we counted on. We have been deeply disappointed. Loved ones have died.

One way we protect ourselves from further hurt is to pass judgment on those events. “That was awful. I never want to feel that way again.” We armor ourselves against experiencing them again, or at least not as intensely, by assigning them to categories we can then identify and avoid.

Being still invites us to suspend those judgments, loosen the categories, and see our experiences and relationships through clear eyes rather than judgmental, frightened eyes.

That takes me back to the phrase I often use when I encounter something I would typically pass judgment on. “Hmm, look at that.”