By Dick Dalton
Many of us know about going through our days riding the teeter-totter of feeling superior or feeling inferior to other people. From waking up to falling asleep we were better-than or worse-than everyone we encountered, whether that was face to face or just in our imaginations. We seemed to have no control over this daily ride: it constantly defined and redefined how we saw ourselves as we compared ourselves to others.
We had no idea that we’d been infected by “the judging virus.” Yes, I’m building an analogy that compares the damaging habit of judging ourselves and other people to viruses like those that cause colds, influenza, and Covid-19. These physical viruses are encapsulated pieces of genetic information carried to target cells where they attach and replicate themselves, doing damage and then spreading further. Note: we are not the virus. It’s an intruder that infects us and we need to have sympathy for ourselves and others who are in its grip.
The judging virus carries cultural – not genetic – information spread by communication and it infects large numbers of people. Growing up in the church and later as a volunteer minister, I was taught that I was a soul that needed to be saved from evil thoughts. Our initial identity does not know how to separate our individual soul from the thoughts and feelings we have acquired – including the hurtful ideas that come along with the judging virus. We were taught that, “we are our own worst enemy” and that we needed to be sure we were being good all the time.
How do we get infected? A child is not born with the judging virus, but those around the newborn can be unknowingly infected and contagious. Like all viruses the judging virus does not care who you are or who it infects, it just lives and multiplies where the conditions are right. The hurtful words and actions of an infected person hit a child’s sensory receptors and penetrate its unprotected mind. “Shut up! Stop crying! Don’t be bad!” Somewhat surprisingly, praise can also pass the virus to a child: “You are so much sweeter than your brother.” You begin to measure yourself in comparison to others. “Good” and the teeter-totter goes up, “bad” and it goes down. Once inside the child, the virus takes hold of how we see ourselves and view others. It behaves like a self-righteous expert, a superior quick-draw judge condemning or praising everyone around.
The judging virus creates beliefs: “I am _____.” Just fill in the words that sound to you like criticism or praise. Love also creates a belief: “I am worthy of respect, kindness, and understanding.” It is possible to love someone who has the virus just the way you can love someone who has the flu. We can remember that the virus is an intruder in the person’s body/mind: we are not the same as the virus and we are not in control of the symptoms it causes. Some people are fortunate enough, and become loving enough, to learn or realize that, “I am not my thoughts,” and “I am not the enemy.”
The judging virus can be a highly contagious and destructive bully. Radio, television, movies, and social media feed the bully and stir up the violence it can cause. Infected leaders and their infected followers demonize others and anyone who is “other” is devalued and bullied. Often, that’s used as a justification for treating people inhumanely, sometimes even killing them. The judging virus can be that powerful! It injures people, separates and destroys relationships, and robs people of their health and happiness. The judging virus has become a pandemic that many feel helpless to cure, but I believe that it is impossible for the virus to work when love is active.
Because so many people we encounter are infected, with each encounter we have to remember to separate the individual from their actions that are mostly controlled by the virus. Some say we should focus on the divine wisdom within each person. They did not choose to be infected. They do not even know they are sick and this is the moment for forgiveness. Until people infected realize they are sick and ask for help, they are like robots. But they are worthy of our love and our forgiveness even when they are not asking for them. We understand their predicament and how it happened. It was not their fault – nor is it ours.
It became obvious to me how important love is in combating the virus: love that starts with believing that we, and everyone else, are worthy of respect, kindness, and understanding. Then comes the moment when our belief shifts into knowing about love (where there is no more possibility of doubt). Next we begin the loving work of discerning the judging virus in action inside and outside of ourselves.
After I retired, while writing my book (I AM NOT MY THOUGHTS), I opened my mind and asked for a new word or phrase to describe who we are. What I got in return was,
“I am a Pod of Consciousness observing my thoughts and sensory input and occasionally making decisions by exercising my power of will.”
Whenever my judging virus brought up a blaming thought I needed an antidote, a substitute belief. I was thirty years old and beaten down with self-condemning thoughts when I finally asked for help – and it came. This is the new belief that worked for me:
I am no better nor worse than any other soul.
I cannot judge that any individual is in full control of their thoughts and actions at any particular time.
I am a unique individual, a self-aware being, a soul connected to all that exists.
I have a body, thoughts, feelings, relationships, and spirit. I do observe these when I’m awake (aware) and I make decisions when given a chance.
I follow through when I exercise my power of will.
We cannot blame anyone for being infected or for not being cured. Instead, we can become more loving of them – as we’ve become more loving of ourselves.
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Dick Dalton, PhD., published his book, I AM NOT MY THOUGHTS, after 30 years of teaching Health & Wellness at Lincoln University (MO) following 10 years as a volunteer minister. He hosts a 1-hour interview show on http://www.kopn.org called Glocal News in Social Artistry: People building a more humane world from the inside out.
Contact: daltondster@gmail or Instagram.
The image that heads this post is by Artie Andrade/Pexels