Welcome to the third and final article on judgment. So far, we’ve talked about judging yourself (see Here Comes the Judge) and judging others (see When We Judge Others).
Today, we’re tacking judging circumstances.
I touched on this topic briefly in the article called Don’t Try Harder … Resist Less which I published a few weeks ago, but I’d like to expand on it a little more today.
Because we often spend a lot of time judging the circumstances of our lives – big and small – labeling them as bad, terrible, upsetting, etc. Of course, we also label them as good, terrific, fantastic, and so on.
This is what judging circumstances looks like:
- Man, the traffic was so bad this morning. My commute sucks.
- My laptop crashed. I lost everything. My whole day is going to hell.
- Yeah, the sun is shining today. I’m going to have a great day.
I’m sure you’re familiar with these types of statements. We all make them. We’ve almost been trained to make them. We’re constantly looking around and labeling things as good or bad.
But the real question is: are they?
I’ll bet your first response was, “Yeah, sure. Things are good or bad. That’s life.”
I used to think that too. Until I really dug into it.
Then I learned that nothing is good or bad. It just is. We are the ones that make things good or bad – and here’s the important part:
We judge things as good or bad – and then let those judgments impact the way we feel about those things, respond to those things … and more.
Just look at the statements above. Most of them start by “judging” something that is entirely outside your control.
“The sun is shining.” That’s a simple statement of fact. It’s not good that the sun is shining. It’s not bad.
But then look at what happens. “The sun is shining. I’m going to have a great day.”
Why? Why does the sun shining impact what kind of day you’re having at all? Okay, I know that the sun shining tends to lift people’s spirits and make them smile more. That’s been proven in studies.
But it doesn’t have to. You have a choice. You can be just as happy on rainy days as sunny ones. Right?
Okay, so let’s get a little tougher.
What if the circumstance is what we’d call “really bad”? Like say, you have cancer or someone you love has cancer.
I remember when I found out that a close friend of mine had cancer. I was devastated. It was BAD, really BAD.
In reality, her having cancer was merely a fact. What made it BAD was the story that I immediately made up about that fact. Oh no, she’s going to have to go through chemotherapy. She’s going to be really sick. Maybe she’s even going to die. That’s bad, really bad.
What I find fascinating though is that study after study have shown that cancer patients who are positive, upbeat, and optimistic are the ones with the best survival rates. These patients choose not to judge the circumstances as bad, at least not most of the time.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t have feelings of anxiety, sadness, and fear. They do. That’s normal.
What it does mean is that they haven’t held onto those negative feelings. Instead, they’ve looked for the opportunity, the gift, in the situation.
For instance, about my friend, I asked myself: What can I do to help her? How can I make things easier for her? What opportunity does this present for me to be closer to her? To spend more time with her?
It’s often hard to look for gifts in circumstances that seem “bad” or “difficult”, but you can always find them if you look. You just have to shift out of the judgment first.
Today, it’s a rainy/snowy/sleety day. I’m warm and dry in my home. My husband is here. My cats are here. We have plenty of food. So, I can just look outside and appreciate the nourishing precipitation, the raindrops spattered on the window, and the wind ruffling the few remaining leaves clinging to our oak trees.
And my friend? I’m happy to say that she came through her cancer experience with flying colors. And we did get closer because of it. I got to spend more time with her then, real quality time, and now we’re better friends than we were before. A gift. Plus, I value her even more because I’m more aware that our time together is limited. NOT because of her cancer, but because our time with everyone is limited here on earth.
Circumstances are truly not good or bad. They are just circumstances. It’s the way we respond to them that makes them good or bad. We have a choice.
So, my challenge for you today is to recognize whatever judgment you are making about circumstances (especially ones that you are judging “bad”) and then find the gift. Even if it’s only one.
Let me know how it goes. In fact, I’d love to hear how the whole series landed for you. And if you ever need help finding the gift, please reach out. I’d love to support you in choosing the positive.