Judgment & Our Unsettled Selves

My father and I are eating at a diner. 

I tell him about my weekend at a rural retreat center. It was my first time there, and I had some professional grade judgment. 

This person in the dining hall was just so pious. That person on the porch had no grasp on reality. The people wearing their overpriced lounge clothes thought they'd walked right out of a World's Most Perfect People magazine.  

My father pours a little plastic creamer cup into his coffee. I know that feeling, he says. He sips his coffee, adds another creamer. I usually get judgmental when I'm in an unfamiliar environment and trying to feel comfortable. 

I see the truth in that. I'm at my most judgmental when I feel off-kilter and want to get back on.

It's a false path to relief, isn't it? I say to my father. He nods. Most anything that distances us from other human beings is. 

Maybe it's a sign, I think. When I'm being judgmental of others, it means I need to be kind to my unsettled self. 

I groan. It's much easier to be judgmental. Or rather, I'm much more conditioned to be judgmental. 

But my father's insight is a good one. If judgment roars up, can I catch it, hold it gently, and say to myself, "Oh, I'm in some pain here,"? Which almost always softens judgment's hard edges. 

My father eats his tuna club sandwich. I get a refill on my drink. And I can't help but think that here at the diner, my father's handed me a little bit of enlightenment. 

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Non-JudgmentCaitie Whelan