The change began with a homeless man in a San Diego park. My friend was talking with various homeless people as part of a Heart of the Samurai exercise, when she looked into one particular man’s pale green eyes. His eyes took her beyond his filthy clothes, the stink of his unbathed body, and his uncut matted hair, because in them she saw a human being. As she spoke with this man, she came to see that he had fallen into a pit of illiteracy, alcoholism and emotional problems that, as of yet, he hadn’t been able to climb out of. After this encounter, she could no longer judge a homeless person, and later when her own son struggled with drug addiction her perspective changed even more. Every homeless person she drove by could be her son.
Each of us has our own set of judgments. Based on our experiences and personalities, we put on sunglasses early in life, seeing our view of the world as the right and often, only one. These sunglasses can become “shoulds” for our spouses, employers, employees, children and friends – and even the strangers who cross our paths daily. When they don’t live up to our standards, we become right, they become wrong, and we judge them.
For example, when we get married we come with our list of what Prince or Princess Charming should be like. For a woman, Prince Charming might need to be romantic, hard-working, and must always put his clothes away and the toilet seat down. A man might want his Princess Charming to be beautiful, always supportive and ready to jump into bed. But what happens when a woman or man finds out their prince or princess is really a frog? He farts and burps and leaves piles of paper everywhere. She likes to wear sweats and tends to nag. In fairy tales it takes only a kiss to turn a frog into a prince, but fairy tales are not real life! A woman might kiss her frog over and over, trying all sorts of manipulations to change him into the perfect Prince Charming, but the simple truth is, you can’t change another person.
As compassionate samurai, we limit our contributions to others by the barriers our sunglasses put up. So how can we take them off? Emotional experiences such as the encounter between the woman and the homeless man are quickest. Here are some other things to consider.
- Begin by being aware that you are wearing sunglasses. The imperfect people around us are there to reveal our sunglasses to us.
- Quit kissing frogs! Recognize that when you are trying to keep control by resisting someone or something because it doesn’t fit your ideal, you are actually out of control. The things you resist control you.
- Begin small by asking yourself, “What judgments can I more easily let go of?” These might be as small as how you squeeze the toothpaste tube.
- As humans, we tend to focus on the negative, not the positive. Focus on the many positive things about the person who isn’t measuring up, not the few things we’d like to change.
- Remember that letting go of judgment doesn’t mean letting go of accountability. Accountability is neither good nor bad, and done without judgment.