Judgment Free Zone?
Something I often hear from the young people I work with and people who find themselves running in mental health circles is the existence of a judgment free zone. Being a woman in her fifties I must say that I was unfamiliar with this concept until fairly recently. I encountered it first in a support group setting where people threw it out as a requirement for the rules that would make them feel comfortable sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences with others. The idea is that others will refrain from judging anything that might be said, that open mindedness will be practiced. What a nice thought, a lovely ideal. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all could just do what we wanted and believe that others will respect our choices, because we have demanded it? My idealistic side embraces this concept but my pragmatism insists on reality.
A little reality tells me that no matter how much I insist, others are perfectly free to believe as they choose. What a judgment free zone really is, is a policing of thought. If someone tells me that they feel judged by me because I have not supported their position, have expressed a contradictory idea or thought, or maybe even simply said nothing, perhaps they are right. Perhaps I have drawn conclusions about what they have told me, but do they then have the right to demand that I not?
I have been practicing meditation every day for almost a year now and I feel that I have gained some insight into my judgmental side. I have come to see that I do watch and analyze others behaviors but that I then try hard to see how those things might look from their perspective. I still have a tendency to judge but I allow room for there to be other ways to look at the topic at hand.
A friend I listen to often seems to be struggling tremendously with this alleged “zone”. He feels that the clamor for an absence of judgment is akin to entitlement. He hears it as whining and a thin skinned appeal for freedom from any and all expectation and blames the slovenly, sloppy appearance, work product, and overall thinking of “millennials” on the demand for this freedom. I think he is somewhat correct but I think that this has always been the case with young people. I think human beings push for freedom.
I do believe that judgey, pursed lips and muttery criticisms should be avoided. An attempt to understand why something works for someone else, and an acceptance of individual choice as long as it does not impinge on the rights or freedoms of others is an admirable goal. Do I like that choice of hairstyle or piercing? Maybe not. As long as my behavior and actions toward another are respectful of their choice my judgment is just a thought and thoughts are fine.
Where are you on the judgment issue?