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Judgment & Forgiveness (Part One)

It might not be a popular opinion to express in spiritual circles, but I’m a big fan of judgment. 

In fact, it receives a fair amount of…judgment!

So, I had to come up with a better word.

Words matter, We often shut down or dismiss a whole topic if we hear words that don’t sit right with us. Like teenager me, who would dismiss a whole clothes shop because of the music playing, or even the smell of the store.

This isn’t personality type judging. It’s not about being inflexible or requiring good supporting data. And it’s not about where you are on your spiritual journey, and how forgiving you are of others. 

My new word is discernment. Which the dictionary defines as the ability to judge well – precisely what I was looking for. 

Using discernment is a skill.

Learning discernment is the natural, uncorrupted human growing up process. We learn what is safe and what is dangerous. We learn to express ourselves in a way that can be understood. We learn how to walk, run, climb, swim. All of these require good judgment.

And, because we are human, much of our upbringing is corrupted. Not in a malicious way. We’re taught our parents’ prejudices as though they are also vital to learning who we are in the world. The more influences that come into our sphere, the more prejudices we are exposed to, for us to adopt, reject or ignore. 

Which means by the age of 25 (when our bones and brains are fully developed), what we think of as truth is usually a pretty mixed bag of random opinions stitched together in the shape of a person. Some are examples of good discernment – like checking for traffic before stepping into the road. Others are harmless oddities – like the way cutlery is organised in a drawer. And a few are acquired prejudices – like any belief system that ascribes higher value to people of the same skin tone, religion, politics or football club. 

Are you judging well?

How can we tell the difference between discernment and prejudice?

Here’s where nonduality comes in, to give us a set of reliable principles for navigating this question, and all of life. 

What’s nonduality got to do with it?

Everything. The nondual exploration is a deep dive into who we are, what we are not, and how that works under the umbrella of “not two”. And that offers a key observation:

Before, below and beyond any thoughts or feelings is a sense of self. That sense of self can be of our true self: peaceful (wise, powerful, joyful, loving, free, abundant, etc). Or that sense of self can be of our not-self: agitated (urgent, bitter, frustrated, distressed, broken, etc). Peaceful or agitated. Or whatever words describe those for you. 

Before, below and beyond any thoughts or feelings is a sense of self. That sense of self can be of our true self: peaceful. Or that sense of self can be of our not-self: agitated. Peaceful or agitated. Or whatever words describe those for you. Our recognised sense of self or not-self becomes our first guide for navigating life.

How do we use our sense of self as a guide?

Whenever we feel in our not-self, our priority is a return to self. Metaphorically.

Not as a way of escaping reality, but as a way of aligning with it. Acting as our not-self never a good idea for our own wellbeing, even if it appears so from the perspective of personal gratification.

And not as a form of spiritual bypassing (I wrote about this in The Nondual Flip-Flop). When our sense of self is that of our true self, we think, feel and act in alignment with who we are. 

Which is why it’s so valuable to know what prompts us to remember (metaphorically) who we are. A quick chat with a coach, a coffee out with a friend, a long walk in the woods, a salt bath, a cup of tea, a stretch, watching a funny video clip. Anything that shifts the energy – my simplest is to tie my hair up, or let it down.

And then, we might find action arises automatically. But if we’ve been conditioned into using agitation as our motivator, we can find ourselves at a loss. Then, asking ourselves, “What’s next?” can be helpful. 

What’s next might be radical forgiveness, lodging an official complaint, screaming, journaling, leaving a relationship, changing career, re-evaluating what used to look true to our not-self or just another cup of tea.

What’s next?

In life, we are called on the exercise good judgment frequently. In the micro: deciding what to have for lunch, and in the macro: discerning if someone is lying (or misguided) about certain facts. 

This is important: 

We can be our true self and still judge objects, concepts and actions. Indeed, our grounded sense of self is likely to add a relevant voice to a situation. But as our true self, we’d never consider any person more or less valid or valuable than another.

  • It makes sense to call things right or wrong, good or bad. Sometimes that’s as an internal opinion, sometimes it’s the deliberation of a jury, changing the direction of lives. It makes sense, in terms of navigating life.
  • It makes no sense to treat any person as lesser, because of words or actions. It makes no sense, because we are the very same self.  

I don’t need to like what you are doing, I may call out that behaviour, I could look for ways for you to be stopped, I can choose to never be alone in a room with you.

But I still value the real you, as you. If I can’t value you, I can’t truly value me. 

TL;DR:

Discerning is to exercise good judgment. Using our sense of self as our guide, we act in alignment with who we are. That includes the freedom to judge (or not) objects, situations and behaviours. But it can never include devaluing or dismissing a person (including ourselves).

Which is where radical forgiveness comes in. That’ll be part two. 

As an aside…

When we understand discernment, the natural tarot card to illustrate this is “Justice” (not “Judgment”, which is more of an awakening card). My favourite image is this one from Chris-Anne, published by Hay House. Until I looked it up right now, I’d forgotten that her reflection on the card is: “I walk in alignment with my higher self.” Well said.

With Love, Sara

PS Want to talk more about this? It’s easy to book a call…

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