I often catch myself acting like Judge Judy, banging my gavel to declare who or what’s good or bad. My inner Judge Judy adjudicates the overweight person at the gym, the slow cashier at the grocery store, and the nervous driver in front of me.
It’s not only bad things I judge. Instead of savoring the fragrance of a lilac bush, I proclaim it as beautiful and give it my seal of approval as if I were the judge of the universe.
The left side of my brain slices and dices most everything into categories of “good” or “bad.” And perhaps the one I judge most is myself. Depending upon the day, the circumstances, and my mood, an underlying tension flows within me like static electricity as I vacillate between whether I’m good or bad.
I wish I could flip a switch in my brain and get it to stop judging. But our brains don’t work that way—there’s no on-and-off switch.
Instead, I’m learning I can quiet my inner Judge Judy by replacing negative thoughts with a positive thought or image. That’s because our brains can think only one thought at a time.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You are what you think all day long.” So maybe the key to quieting our judgmental minds is to catch ourselves when we’re listening to our inner grump, and shift our thoughts to positive ones.
Lately, when I catch myself judging someone or something, I replace that thought with something better, something more life-giving.
The opposite of a negative judgment is respect. Honor. So, when I judge the overweight gym enthusiast, I bless her instead for having the courage and fortitude to get out there and shake it up.
When I’m overwhelmed by the aroma of a lilac bush, I honor its beauty by stopping, closing my eyes, and thanking the Creator for the gift of its fragrance.
I would like to become a man with hands folded gently against his chest, filled with namaste for life; a man who honors and respects himself and all Creation with mind, body, and spirit. Perhaps holding onto that image will help me become more like the man I want to be.
Judge Judy’s been holding court in our heads for too long now. It’s time to quiet her—time to replace our negative thoughts with positive words and images—and grow into the best version of ourselves—the person we’re created to be.
—brian j plachta
Key Point: Judging ourselves and others becomes a bad habit that turns us into grumps.
Try This: Find a word or image that helps replace your inner judge. When you catch yourself judging, use that word or image to develop compassion for yourself and others.
I never got that kiss with Teresa. But as I reflect on that long-ago night, I realize Sister Carmella shared two pieces of wisdom I’ll never forget: to leave room for Jesus and the healing power of a smile.