The other day I heard a quote that stopped me in my tracks. It’s from Mother Teresa who said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Wow. That quote right? It makes sense to me because when I think about the process of judging, it’s standing apart, removed from. We see that literally in the courtroom as well. Where does the judge sit? Not with the defendant or the prosecutor, and not even level with those parties. At least, that’s what I gather from portrayals on movies and TV.
To judge someone or something, you cannot be with them and love requires presence. Sure, you can love someone and live far away from them, but in that case, presence is not physical, it’s emotional. This goes for our relationship with ourselves as well.
All week I’ve been judging myself for how I feel, wishing I felt differently. Why aren’t I a bubbling ray of sunshine? How come I’m not dancing around my apartment with joy? The New York Times recently published an article that said we’re all languishing. The author Adam Grant says, “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.” He also said mental health is a spectrum with depression on one end and flourishing on the other. Languishing falls along that spectrum.
I agree with Grant, but also I don’t think he’s quite right. Sure, we’re languishing, but really I think he’s describing burnout. According to HelpGuide.org, “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.” Um, hi, what would you call life during a pandemic? Usually when people talk about burnout, they associate it with work, but y’all, I think it’s entirely possible to be burnt out by life itself. When going to the grocery store is stressful, when you’re worried about being physically close to friends, when everything you do feels risky, it makes sense to me that would lead to burnout.
The judgment comes in for me because one, I wish I wasn’t burnt out, and two, I’m close to being fully vaccinated so why aren’t I more focused on the joy of that? My temptation is to argue with myself, but that’s not loving. What I need right now is the presence of myself. For me to say to me, “I know you’re burnt out baby. That’s OK. It makes sense. You don’t have to feel any other way than you do right now.” I took a big breath as I expressed that so I know it created relief.
What all of us want is love – love from ourselves and love from others. I can’t do much about how other people view me, but I can do something about how I view myself. And if I want to improve my relationship with myself, that means approaching my moods, my body, my whatever with love and compassion. It means allowing and accepting where I am, how I feel, as if I were talking to a dear friend.
I dream of a world where we realize judgment separates us while love unites us. A world where we remember love requires presence and that means allowing and accepting what is. A world where we work toward treating ourselves with love and without judgment, no matter how we’re feeling.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.