We encounter opportunities to help every day. The man in front of you at the post office drops something, a stranger on the sidewalk trips, or a mother struggles to juggle a child while opening a door. When we are feeling particularly open, we step in to help. But there are times when we don’t. Most of us can’t even pinpoint why we don’t step in to assist another. We hesitate, perhaps thinking offering help will embarrass them. Or maybe we convince ourselves they don’t really need our help after all. In other cases, we neglect to lend a hand because we are silently judging them.
When this happens, we can be completely unaware of it. The moment comes and goes so quickly, our minds turn to other things without really giving thought to the situation. However, part of our spiritual work is to recognize our tendency to hold back a helping hand, understand why we behave this way, and take steps to become more generous, compassionate, and sharing individuals. A stranger trips and falls, yet picks himself up and continues on his way. We think, Oh, he didn’t need help. He’s fine. This may be true. But whether he was hurt or not, the opportunity to connect with someone and show compassion presented itself.
Ask yourself what kind of person you want to be. The kind of person who will ask, Are you okay? Or the kind of person who will walk away?
“It is so much easier to look for what is wrong in a person or situation than for what is right,” says Karen Berg. When we see someone in need, we can get caught up in judgment, weighing whether they deserve the help or not. It is not our job to analyze their choices or what brought on a series of unfortunate circumstances. Our spiritual obligation is simply to help.
“Why is it when someone close to us needs our support, time, care, or forgiveness, we are often so reluctant to give it?” asks Karen Berg. “We calculate, we say, ‘Does he or she deserve it? What has she done for me lately? Will he be able to repay me in kind?’ We think like this because we are human and we judge. We naturally see what is wrong with others, even our loved ones, sooner than we see what is right with them.”
Awareness of our judgmental thoughts can prompt us to turn the lens on our own behavior, and produce the greatest change. We judge others because we are jealous, reactive, or our egos get in the way. We feel envious of someone, superior to another, or simply annoyed by someone’s actions. These are all emotional traps that can lead to judgment. We criticize them – knowingly or unknowingly – in order to feel better about ourselves. And when we do, weaken our connection to the Light of the Creator. It is human to occasionally feel a pang of jealousy. However, it is our choice to indulge in negative thoughts and feelings, or use the situation as fuel to take action in our lives.
Judgment can arise when we dislike the behavior of others. However, it is important to keep in mind this behavior is often parallel to our own. We are guilty of the same attitudes and behaviors we abhor in others, though we don’t see it in ourselves. You have more in common with those who are in need than you think.
Judgment separates us. Our goal should always be to connect to others and show compassion. Every individual must walk their own path through life, which naturally comes with unique challenges. As Michael Berg says, “Full awareness of our own intentions and motives is hard enough, so how can we pass judgment on another person’s life? ... If we accept that our understanding of the spiritual world is limited, it is foolish to imagine that we can see through the intricacies of the spiritual universe enough to penetrate the mysteries of other people’s destinies.” Our goal should always be to step in and help with compassion, a generous heart, and without judgment.