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Forgiveness Series: Categorizing and Judging

by Jo-Ann Downey

in Relationship Communication Skills

What happens before you do or say something you regret? How could you make better choices? What is the precursor to forgiveness?


The need to forgive begins when you create judgments such as making someone (yourself or others), or something, wrong or bad.  Judging has the energy of right, wrong, good, or bad. For example, “you are bad because you did not clean the kitchen properly.”  Judgments begin with you; forgiveness begins with you.

When you have fewer judgments, you have fewer reasons to forgive, and more time and energy for other things in your life like more fun and joy.

The Good News

The good news is that judgments start with the mental activity of judging, and since you have dominion over your thoughts you can change your habit of judging.  The first step is to become aware of your judgments.  A good way to know if you are judging is if you are attached to outcomes and/or experience an increased level of emotional energy. Being upset is a good indicator of the presence of judgments.

The Truth

How do you really know if your point of view is accurate?  Have you ever experienced something that you initially thought was bad; however, it turned out to be a blessing?  Have you ever gotten what you wanted only to later experience that it was not for your highest good?

“I am, as I am; whether hideous, or handsome, depends upon who is made judge.” Herman Melville (1819-1891)

The truth is that you just don’t know everything that is happening, or that will happen, so why spend valuable time and energy judging?  You have a unique point of view in a world of about 7 billion people with their points of view.

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

What Can You Do?

As shared in “Practice When it’s Easy”, the reason to practice when it’s easy is because you want to experience success. In this case, success means an increased awareness of who, what, when, where, and how you categorize and judge. I recommend that you start by observing your judgments that are more positive than negative.

Let’s say you are eating an ice cream cone.  Your categorizing/judging mind might think “I am eating ice cream and feeling good today”.  Can you see that you are broadly categorizing eating ice cream with a good day and feeling good? Would that mean that a day without ice cream is not as good, or bad?

Instead, if you were more present in the moment, didn’t mindlessly categorize or judge, and lived from a more observational and experiential perspective you might think “this ice cream is sweet, cool, and refreshing.”  I hope you see the limitations of seemingly positive categorizations and judgments.

Imagine what your relationships, your life, would be like if you didn’t create negative judgments.

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)

You may enjoy these quotes, “Quotes about Forgiveness.”

photo credit: marimoon

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