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Judgement is easy. Take the time to love.

In New Jersey, experts tell us that the economy is improving – based partially on the fact that there are fewer people receiving unemployment benefits than in previous years.

The assumption is that those formerly unemployed are now working. But actually, there is a sizable percentage no longer receiving unemployment checks, as they’ve exhausted their benefits. They haven’t found jobs but are no longer counted because they no longer receive unemployment benefits. In the meantime, the poverty level in the state is rising.

In Newark today, the police are advising those filing simple assault complaints to take these matters to municipal court instead. There aren’t enough police officers in the city to address violent crime, so they’ve taken this approach to deal with “lesser” criminal matters.

Because of this, it might seem as if the crime rate in Newark is going down. Crimes that aren’t reported to the police don’t get counted in the police department’s figures.

And in some ways, we judge ourselves and others by flawed figures as well. We seem to measure success by “false positives.” Things such as what’s in your bank account, what sort of car you drive, and the amount of jewelry you have. These things in and of themselves are not negative, but using them as a barometer of accomplishment can have a detrimental effect on the psyche. It can leave you feeling empty.

The question is: are you happy? Do you have projects that make you feel as if you’re tapping into your creative impulses and allow you to contribute something in the world? Have you found the people who “get” you so that you don’t have to explain yourself, and yet you know that they’ll always have your back? Are you walking the path that you’ve chosen, or have you fallen into a life of what’s expected of you?

Don’t let the world’s definition of success skew your sense of who you are. Peace that travels with you, a Co-Pilot you can count on and faith that moves mountains. These are the things that keep your soul whole.

One of my guilty pleasures is celebrity magazines. I recently saw a picture of Renee Zellweger, and heard snide comments on social media about the plastic surgery she seems to have had done. Then, a picture of Bonnie Bedelia seemed to show that she’d had work done on her face as well – I thought, she looks like Jennifer Grey, version 2. By that I mean, after Jennifer Grey had her nose fixed, she no longer looked like herself anymore.

But it would never occur to me to make rude comments about them. And I wondered why it is that people feel that they can mercilessly mock celebrities about plastic surgery.

They’re not cartoon characters, devoid of feelings. They read what you’re writing, and it hurts. They care about what others think. And that’s what led them to do this to themselves in the first place.

They’re really not some different breed of human being, living on starlight and moonbeams. They’re you and me.  Whatever it is that we think will make our lives better, our worlds prettier, our struggles more bearable, we do it.  Through the years, I’ve dyed my hair with a canary yellow streak, tried Zumba, gone to Weight Watchers. You name it, I’ve tried it.

In a way, we’re really painting the wrong canvas. It’s not how we look to the world that really matters. It’s how we look at the world.

If we think that everyone is only a sum of their parts – that women are only valid as long as they are young and beautiful and men, as long as they’re strapping and rich – we don’t live in a world that welcomes us. In some ways, we don’t live in the right neighborhood in our minds.

Light yourself up from the inside, and everything you look at on the outside is more beautiful. No nips or tucks necessary. Going under the knife won’t set your life right. The constant care and feeding of your soul is what makes you whole.

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

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