When my partner and I were still a new couple, we were sharing with one another, as couples do, about our past relationships. I remember one conversation during which my partner was being rather judgmental, sharing his reasons for breaking off his past relationships, aspects about these women’s characters or personalities that he felt were sub-par. Feeling uncomfortable, but not being conscious of that, I remember blurting, “You are very judgmental. I don’t like that at all. I bet you weren’t perfect either in those relationships.” I don’t remember how that conversation ended, but it did. We casually moved off the subject, on to something else.
A week or so later, my partner recalled that conversation. I remember he said to me, “I spoke with Kathleen (our then therapist). I told her about our conversation the other day, when you called me judgmental. I got to thinking… isn’t it true that in that moment, you were kind of bein’ judgmental of me being judgmental?”
It was true. I was shocked by the hypocrisy in me! It really snuck up on me! Flashing before my mind’s eye was a quote I had read in Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth: “The extent of the ego’s inability to recognize itself and see what it is doing is staggering and unbelievable. It will do exactly what it condemns others for and not see it.”
After looking inside, what I found was insecurity. Some of the shortcomings or idiosyncrasies that he had found and labeled in his former lovers I felt were also in me, at times! It wasn’t so much that I found his being judgmental distasteful; in fact, his opinionated nature was part of what had attracted me to him originally! My judgment of his being judgmental was driven by my own fear of being judged in the future, discovering I too might not be enough for him!
I shared my new insight with him, and it was a special and powerful moment I hold dear in my heart. In addition to the budding new self-awareness, that moment, like so many moments during that particular relationship, marked the beginning of a very important lesson for me at the time: Judgmental people aren’t hostile and scary. Being judgmental is often an act of self-protection. With that awareness came a growing ability to remain self-expressed and confident while being judged, criticized or misunderstood. It calls to mind some more of my favorite words from Eckhart Tolle: “When we stop perceiving the world as hostile, we think, speak and act differently.”