Truth versus Judgment

Oprah Winfrey at the White House for the 2010 ...

Oprah Winfrey at the White House for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oprah Winfrey once spoke about how much she had been harshly and unfairly judged at different times.  She had often been taken to court and had always put a lot of energy into defending herself.

But one day, in court, she made a decision.  I’m not doing this anymore.  She said she knew she wasn’t guilty of what she was being accused of, and she chose to let that be enough.  She said no matter what anybody thinks, or how many people damned her, she knew what the truth was.

I remember that moment of watching her as she was talking about it, and how at peace she was with herself.  At peace with herself and in a way

unassailable.  It takes a lot of nerve and courage not to defend yourself when you’re being judged for something that you know you’re not guilty of.

I think it can be important to state the truth and stand up for yourself, but sometimes it’s a waste of time.  Somebody who is judging you has already shown you that they don’t have any interest in knowing the truth about you.  They don’t care enough about you to want to be fair.

It’s tough and it hurts like hell.  But it is what it is.  You can’t let somebody else’s judgment of you be your death sentence.  A friend of mine, writer Ella Camp, said “The past can cast a long shadow over our present- therefore we must at times, actively seek the sun.”

Judgment can be that dark shadow.  It’s driven by stuff in the past – unresolved anger, fear, hurt.   But here’s the thing: nobody’s judgment can actually alter the truth about you.  I reckon to know that is to step away from the shadow and stand in the sun.

I heard the most beautiful thing in the movie The Interpreter the other night.  One of the characters said “a single whisper can be heard above an army when it is telling the truth.”

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Judging Others (I’m okay you’re not okay) and Being Judged (ouch)

Thinking about judgment today.   Here’s the thing about putting anything that you do in front of people.   It’s going to impact on them and press their buttons.   Some are going to tell you you’re doing something wrong.  Some are going to hate it, possibly even dislike you.  Some will love it, others will be indifferent.  So if you judge yourself or the merit of what you’re doing by other people’s reactions, you’ll be blown about like a tumbleweed in a wind storm.

It’s easy to believe people who tell you you’re doing something wrong.   But this I know for myself: when somebody else does something that presses my buttons – annoys me, scares me, whatever – I can say they’re doing something wrong (to myself, or to their face) or I can deal with whatever’s firing off inside of me, which will allow me to respect that they’re doing what’s right for them. So my choice is to either embrace them in the place they’re at, or walk away if I can’t. But I leave them intact.

If I’m trapped in some way and I’m not dealing with it, then when somebody expresses their own trapped-ness in a way that I think isn’t going anywhere, my own buttons are going to fire off like crazy.   Don’t do it like that, can’t you see what you’re doing wrong! I’ve often judged or imposed my opinions on others before I realized what I was doing, then had to go back and make amends.  I’m sorry, that wasn’t about you at all, it was about me.

We’re so conditioned to judge others rather than face our own truth – it’s pretty much one of the foundations of our culture. We love looking at people and saying “you know what your problem is?” It’s a form of I’m okay you’re not okay. We see ourselves as better, more informed, more complete, more empowered, (whatever) than the other person. It makes us feel real good about ourselves. Doesn’t make the other person feel so good, though!

What’s the difference between concern and judgment?  Well, concern comes from a place of self accountability – I’m worried about you, are you okay, is there something I can do? That leaves the person feeling loved, and equal.   It’s hard to look inwards when somebody has provoked us, but at least then we move on from whatever’s bugging us.   Then we can see that if we hadn’t been provoked by the other person’s seeming incompleteness we might not have seen our own.   Also, we avoid saying things that could be pretty demoralizing.

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Pointing Fingers

When I posted my narcissist article yesterday it I revealed the identity of the Narcissist.  I got some wonderful and helpful support for it, but obviously nobody was on the Narcissists’s side.  I didn’t want them to be, I wanted the support, but I started feeling uncomfortable with myself.  Basically I’m setting this person up to be judged by the whole world in a forum where they don’t have the ability to present their side of the story.   Mmmmm not so comfortable with that.  Not really.

She said through gritted teeth.

It just got me thinking.  And while I was mulling it over, I removed the identity of the narcissist from my article.   I don’t want to set somebody up to be persecuted or judged.   When I’m angry and hurting I need to be able to yell and scream and say all manner of persecuting things – in private, where it can’t hurt anybody.  First it gets rid of the energy, and second it gets me in touch with what I really need at a deeper emotional level.  And it’s great to take it to therapy.

But I don’t want to do it in public.  I’m sure there’s a whole lot of Catholic stuff about being good and angelic and saintly mixed up here, but there is some sanity, and it’s this: pointing fingers, “I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m good and you’re bad”, makes me feel very grandiose and justified for about one second, but it doesn’t bring me what I need.  I don’t need to hurt somebody else, I need to receive love, to be heard and shown where and how to find it.  I need the attention focused on me.

When I point fingers at somebody the attention gets deflected to them, so I set myself up.  Imagine a person gets run over by a drunk driver.  They’re lying by the side of the road, bloody, badly injured.  But everybody goes running after the driver.

Put it like that and it’s pretty clear.

So probably a fairly accurate definition of a narcissist is that they don’t have the consciousness and skills to ask for what they need in a straightforward way.   They don’t believe they deserve love at all, or that they’ll receive it unless their situation is the worst in the world, unless they’re more important than everybody else.  Their need is so great and so unmet that they can’t see beyond it.  From their perspective and in some place way way beyond the reach of their awareness and their thinking brain, they’re on the brink of extinction.

That’s why they fight so.  I don’t think it’s about being bad or sick.  I really don’t buy the mental illness thing.  When a person is physically starving, they’ll either lie down and die or they’ll kill for food: they have no capacity to discern or care about their victim’s needs.   I believe it’s the same with emotional needs.  I may not be able to understand the level of emotional deprivation that drives a narcissist to their behavior – but I can thank my lucky stars that I can’t, because it means I’ve never experienced it.

There but for the grace of God go I.

Alas, the saying that if you point a finger at someone you’ve got three pointing back at you is uncomfortably and wretchedly true.  I know my narcissist can’t give me the love that I need.  If I keep going back there to try and get the love I need, I’m deliberately walking into an accident that will leave me emotionally bloody.  If I then try to get my attention by pointing fingers at the narcissist, I’m setting myself up to not get what I was looking for in the first place.   Isn’t that what a narcissist does?   Eugh.  I hate having to look at myself.  It’s not always a pleasant sight!

One final word – well, a few, actually.  Just because somebody can’t meet my needs, does that make them sick or bad?  No it doesn’t.  Everybody has their own story, and the right to their own journey.  I don’t have to like people’s behavior; my emotions and experience are valid as are my needs.   But if I want the right to those needs being met and to making my way towards a better awareness and experience of quality in life, then I must grant that right to everybody else in the whole universe with no exceptions.  Otherwise I’m a fraud.  Eugh again.