I was driving north on Churn Creek Road in Enterprise, California approaching what is called the Four Corners at the Hartnell Avenue intersection. This was back in the early 1990s and my mind was wandering as does when I don’t have any specific duties for it to perform. As it wandered, it found something and offered it to me. I accepted it with gratitude. As I examined it carefully like a shiny, smooth stone one finds on the beach, it occurred to me that this gift could be useful. I reverently packed it away and have relied on it ever since.
The offering was an idea, of course, the currency of the mind. A powerful but simple idea, one that most people may already know but had never occurred to me before that moment.
It occurred to me that there was a direct connection between blame and understanding. Like two sides of a coin, when you had one, the other was hidden, but always there. If I blamed myself or someone I could not understand them. If I understood myself or someone I could not blame them.
We always have that choice. Our critical, judgmental, evaluative minds is constantly doing its job; liking this, loving that, deploring this, rejecting or resisting that, adoring this, condemning that. That is its job and it does it well. Walk down the street and watch it work. It notices people and judges them. They are tall or short, skinny or fat, young or old, attractive or ugly, dressed well or not, interesting or boring. We might even form an opinion of them based on how they look or act or what we hear them say.
Same with cars, especially those with bumper stickers. We might love or hate someone merely due to the words they have pasted on their bumper. Our mood might even change because of those words. Or we might not like how fast or slow they drive, or if we see them smoking a cigarette or talking on the phone while they drive. The mind judges everything all the time. It cannot stop. And the more we judge, the less we understand. They more we criticize, the less we accept.
It works the other way of course. The more compassion we feel for others, the less we judge them. The more empathy we develop for our fellow humans, the more we can enter into their world and see, feel and understand what they are experiencing. We no longer judge them, hate them or blame them. We understand and accept. We “get” them.
I imagine a person who is spiritually enlightened no longer judges anyone or anything. They see the world from all perspectives at once and understand why at this particular moment in this particular place this particular person thought, felt, said or did what he or she thought, felt, said or did. They would completely understand, not judge.
To judge someone or something, we project our limited understanding onto another. We think we know what they should have done or should be doing. We picture how they are and we picture how they should be and we decide one is better. Not only that, but we might decide this person is wrong or bad to say or do what they said or did. We might think they should not have done it, that they had a choice and they chose wrong and it was personal. It was against you and you cannot let it go. At that moment, where is understanding?
You are right and they are wrong. You are good and they are bad. You are the victim and they deserve to be blamed. They had no reason to do what they did, you decide. At least not a good reason. And therefore you have a right to be angry. It isn’t fair you decide. You end up falling in love with your truth or view of reality and decide that other views are wrong or bad.
But remember whose mind is telling you that. Remember you could be wrong from another point of view. Remember you only have one side of the truth and it is not the whole truth.
Always seek to understand. Blaming self or others seldom brings us peace.
Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 25 years. He believes in magic and is a Sacramento Kings fan.