Laying Down the Gavel

9 September 2015

And when the black thread breaks, the weaver shall look into the whole cloth, and he shall examine the loom also.   ~Kahlil Gibran, from The Prophet

laying down the gavel

I’ve been thinking about judging lately.

Several weeks ago I realized in a clear, turning-point kind of way that making quick and often negative judgments was a bedrock quality of my personality.

I didn’t like seeing this.  But, recently I’m finding that I can look at something like this and not shrink from it, not sugar-coat it, not rationalize it.  And also, not beat myself up over it.  Just notice it.  And start exploring it.

What I’m finding is that I resort to judgement unconsciously, almost instinctively, when I’m anxious, vulnerable, hurt, tired, pushed beyond whatever limits I have at the moment.

A few days after recognizing this, during a morning meditation, a word dropped into me, like a stone into a still pool.


I knew instantly that this word was tied to judging.  That, in fact, it was offered as an antidote.

But I didn’t get it.  Until I began to recognize the thread tying disparate concepts together:

Judgement happens when I’m frightened.                                                                                       One very frightening feeling is that of feeling unworthy.

Let me clarify that I’m not referring to the kind of judging we necessarily do every day in a hundred different ways—to determine what’s for breakfast, to prioritize work, to decide how to tend our relationships.  This sorting through options and ranking the importance of our activities is essential to living in line with our values.

I’m writing here about the judging that finds fault and condemns, distances and builds barriers.  Like the clever snarky comment.  The belittling of a different opinion.  The talking over another person to feel important.

Judgement happens when I’m frightened.                                                                                      One very frightening feeling is that of feeling unworthy.

Which explains why a lot of judgement is about putting someone else down.  Rising our own seat on the teeter-totter by lowering the person on the other end.  But in this game, sooner or later, it’s our butt in the dust.

I think this judging often arises from small, chafing fears that we don’t even notice, much less identify.  It might be an uneasiness that a friend’s unreliability will leave us stranded or make us look flaky by association.  Or perhaps a friend’s opinions challenge ours and it’s just easier to discount them rather than engage in a difficult dialog.  Our worry about our kids’ future can blast up the emotion in a political debate.

We all have a lot at stake.  Which means there’s a lot to be scared about.


I keep revolving, circling back around the word.  Knowing this piece fits in the puzzle. Trying to see where and how.

Is judging is about shaming?  Ourselves?  Someone else?

There’s a correlation between how we treat ourselves and how we treat others.  If I judge myself harshly, I’m likely to do the same to others.  When I feel comfortable in what I’m doing, I hear someone else’s opinion without feeling threatened.  I can extend, be curious about how someone else might see something rather than march into defending my own position.

When my judgement hackles rise, I’m beginning to glimpse options.  Those defensive hackles are a sign I need a breath or two of personal tending to remind myself that my self-worth is not on the line.  Then, if I can slip out of that protective critical state, there’s an opportunity to move into a neutral state of mind where I can become more attuned and observant.  Here’s the chance to observe what triggers were snagged in me.   And to attune to the other person’s intentions, the feelings behind their words.  This is the open territory, the chance to build new landscapes.  To move over to the swing set and help push one another way up into the sky.

It all happens quickly.  Usually I have to backtrack to get there.

I’ve almost scrapped this post because it’s been such a wrestling match.  At times, I couldn’t even see what I was in the ring with.  But this topic feels important.  It feels big, pervasive in lots of small ways that are easy to judge insignificant.  But probably aren’t.

I hope some of you will chime in.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, perspectives, experiences, from either side, or both, of the shaming judgment.   I’d love to play on the swing set with you.  g





About Lisa Sorensen

I'm an architectural designer with a passion for exploring the stretch beyond, the lean toward what we yearn for.
This entry was posted in Friendship, Vulnerability and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Laying Down the Gavel

  1. This post reminded me of something my mom read the other night, when we were all at her house for dinner to celebrate her & my dad’s 52nd anniversary (!). It’s written by Patty Townsend, her yoga teacher. Your writing is so evocative for me & has a way of speaking to what’s on my mind, in a way I didn’t even realize needed unearthing.

    Intimacy (as Adyashanti has said) is direct experience with an undefended heart.
    Who can do that? How do we un-defend our hearts?
    We have glimpses. Expand on them. Follow the feeling.
    Go deeper…
    Soften and open the gates of your heart.
    Can this be an answer to the dilemma of perception?
    Perceive from an undefended heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jena, thank you for this lovely comment! I feel that your words do exactly as you express for me–opening me up to places that are just waiting. And it love these words about an undefended heart. Not possible, but like a north star to guide by, the softening and deepening. Big grin about that. 52! years! Wahoo for them and how wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. katecurran says:


    I really connected with your blog and the feelings you were experiencing, but I never connected it together until I read your blog. Thanks for the thought provoking blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved talking with you about this, Kate. I feel like I’m just seeing some of the pieces, know they fit in the puzzle, but aren’t sure where, how, what the whole picture looks like. But bit but bit……I think unraveling what pricks us can help us walk into stronger territory.


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