One of my greatest spiritual teachers is the mirror of judgment. The teaching is simple: what I judge in others exists within me. The lesson is not easy.
Now, to be clear, this teaching is not about making factual observations or discernment. There is a distinction, although subtle. It is the intention behind our judgment or criticism of another that serves as the distinction. But the bottom line is this – you know when you’re being critical. We all recognize our inner critic. We’ve turned our inner critic on ourselves often enough to recognize it when it emerges.
By way of example, let’s say you have a friend you think is a pompous ass. You’ve heard the cliché, “it takes one to know one”. That old saying holds a truth and a lesson. What you recognize in another and judge harshly, exists within you. Some of the most frustrating and difficult people in our lives serve as our best teachers.
You may find yourself resisting this teaching. I did. I confess, I was resistant to seeing myself in others. It’s much easier to see and judge the flaws, weaknesses, and shortcomings of others. Seeing our own reflection through the mirror of judgment requires awareness – presence.
Our resistance to such lessons stems from our ego’s inability to recognize itself. Our ego often stands in the way of spiritual growth. You can see your ego at work in the way you react to difficulties or criticism. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the ego falls away when you are truly present, focused in the here and now.
“To love is to recognize yourself in another” ~ Eckhart Tolle
If you’d like to try this lesson, pay attention as you go through the week. Stop and take notice when you hear yourself judging another or being critical. Take a deep breath and center yourself in the present moment. Then, hold your judgment up like a mirror and see what is reflected. Ask yourself, “What characteristic or quality exists in the other that exists in me?” This is difficult inner work but if you’re willing to step outside your ego, real spiritual growth begins.
As you begin your week, let me leave you with the wisdom of the ancient Mayans,
“I am you and you are another me.”