Only when you let go of the judgment that has arisen, and come to a place of acceptance and curiosity and empathy, can you really help. …
Let’s take a fake but typical example so I can show you what I mean (I’m going to bold the symptoms, so forgive the overemphasis): I see a relative who is actively harming her health, who is overweight and diabetic and yet smokes and eats junk food all the time and does other bad things. I know she can make her health better by changing her habits. I judge her for what she’s doing, think badly of her, get frustrated with her, dismiss her because she’s not worthy of my frustration. This kind of thing happens with me and lots of other people all the time — just change the details to spouse, co-worker, kid, friend and instead of unhealthy things, they’re doing something else you don’t like.
What’s going on in this example? Well, first, I’m ignorant of what she’s going through and I don’t understand the situation. She’s been depressed because of her health problems, feeling guilty, feeling stuck, feeling scared, untrusting of herself. Because of these bad feelings, she doesn’t like to think about health, and makes herself feel better through smoking and comfort food. She’s just trying to be happy. And in fact, I do the same kinds of things all the time — I fail. I feel bad. I comfort myself. So I’m not superior, even if I think I am.
What’s more, I’m not being grateful for the great person she is, despite her health problems. She’s wonderful. By focusing on judging her, I’m not appreciating that. Instead, I’m being self-centered by focusing on how much better I am, how she’s frustrating me, how my frustration is more important than any pain she’s feeling. I’m not being curious about who she is, what she’s going through and why … instead I have made a judgment and that stops all inquiry. And from this place of judgment, I can’t help because I have closed off dialog, and have written her off.
You can see how all of these things are harmful. They make me frustrated and unhappy, they harm my relationship with this lovely person, they stop communication and learning, they don’t allow me to help alleviate suffering, they close me off to what she has to offer me. Among other harms.